Research has proven that there is a strong correlation between genes and addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse stated that 40 to 60 percent of a vulnerability to addiction can be attributed to genetics. Though genetics play a strong role in addiction, environment has a significant effect on how genes are expressed and function.
For years, study participants have been poked and prodded to determine the role that genetic variants play in addiction. Now, New York University researchers asked participants their thoughts on genetic testing.
Genetics and addiction
Research surrounding genetics has come a long way. Recent advancements hold promise for better treatment and prevention methods for addiction. Certain genes may make a person more vulnerable to becoming addicted to a substance. Though there is a growing amount of information on the relationship between genes and addiction, there is very little data on participants’ attitudes toward it. This is the first study of its kind to investigate people’s opinions. The findings were published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.
The researchers separated participants into six focus groups. Each group was divided by race and ethnicity to make participants feel comfortable discussing racial and ethnic issues.
Participants were mainly concerned with confidentiality remaining intact and fear of discrimination that hindered them from being tested. Some of their fears included being unsure of the outcome of the test results and that the samples may be used for other purposes. Participants were also upset that testing was based on gender and ethnicity and that their test results could get drug users in trouble with law enforcement.
“Most participants were uncomfortable with engaging in genetic testing for either addiction-related care or for research to understand addiction, because most did not consider addiction to be a genetic disorder,” said David Perlman, M.D. “All participants were more comfortable understanding genetics as explaining physical traits rather than behavior. They viewed addiction as a behavior resulting from environment and experiences rather than genetic inheritance.”
Overall, many of the participants noted they would feel more comfortable with genetic testing if it benefited them medically. They also noted they would feel more content taking a test if it was administered by their primary care physician, instead of addiction treatment programs. The researchers hope their findings will teach future study authors about the best methods of approach for drug users and genetic testing.