The addict gene. Yes, it’s a thing. In fact, scientists say the addict gene has been a thing since the Neanderthals roamed the earth. If you’re counting, that’s 40,000 years ago, at minimum. Over 400,000 years ago, at max. Or, as the National Academy of Sciences phrases it, “at least as recently as 250,000 years ago.”
Either way, that means addiction has been with us for a long, long time.
How’d it happen? Well, via an ancient retrovirus that’s present in the RASGRF2 gene. There’s a better name for that gene though: the pleasure gene, because it increases the activity of dopamine in the brain.
The pleasure gene is present in about 5-10% of us modern humans. That makes 5-10% of the world much more susceptible to addiction.
So says a team of researchers from Oxford and Athens anyway, who found that 34% of Glaswegian drug users possessed the ancient retrovirus. That’s compared to 9.5% of the population as a whole, which, of course, makes carriers of the addict gene over three times more likely to be struck by addiction.
This isn’t the first time the addict gene was tied to substance abuse. A 2012 study found the ancient retrovirus tied to binge-drinking. Furthermore, a 2017 study found associations between Neanderthal DNA and tobacco addiction, as well as depression.
Nevertheless this is the first time the addict gene has been linked to actual human disease.
And yes, again, addiction is a disease. And the more people realize that fact, the better chance we have of treating the afflicted. Turns out, addiction is also hereditary. And now that scientists have identified the addict gene, we can even more effectively treat the affliction of addiction.
Recovery Boot Camp applauds all the researchers and scientists who’ve helped to identify the addict gene. And we eagerly look forward to the day their vital work yields applicable results. Meantime, we’ll keep treating addiction with compassion, empathy and understanding. The addict gene may be something that’s passed down to some of us. But addiction treatment is something we can pass along to everyone.
Significance of The Addict Gene Study
The human genome is “littered” with remnants of ancient retrovirus infections that invaded the germ line of our ancestors, say scientists. Only one of these may still be proliferating: HK2. All humans have HK2, but not all humans have the same HK2 viruses in their genes. The study shows that one specific uncommon HK2, which lies close to a gene involved in dopaminergic activity in the brain, is more frequently found in drug addicts and thus is significantly associated with addiction. The study also shows that HK2 can manipulate nearby genes. That kind of explains why addicts can be so chronically manipulative.