AlterNet: DrugReporter: The Myth of an ‘Addict Gene’

The alternative liberal media has been running more and more articles like this one about the “myth of the addict gene.” I suspect that there the following are at least a few reasons for these criticisms of the disease model, 12 step recovery, and any legal restrictions on drug possession or use:

  • First, there is a strong anti-drugwar sentiment. Many of these writers and activists are rightly horrified by the appalling increases in incarceration for drug offenses. They want to shift policy toward harm reduction and decriminalization of drug use and possession.
  • Second, there is anger at social mores and drug policy that characterizes all drug use as pathology and/or criminality. I’m of the opinion that they go too far in the other direction and seek to characterize all drug use as a lifestyle choice.
  • Third, there is suspicion of 12 step group’s spirituality.
  • Fourth, there are privacy concerns about all genetic testing.

There’s a way in which the article is a straw man argument. I don’t know of anyone who argues that there is a single gene that wholly determines whether one becomes an addict. We know from twin studies that genetics play an important role in the etiology of addiction. Evidence that addiction is a brain disease continues to grow, as well as evidence that multiple genes are involved. Even advocates of addiction as a purely biogenic problem would concede that environmental factors influence the onset, course, severity and treatment response of addiction.

One thought on “AlterNet: DrugReporter: The Myth of an ‘Addict Gene’

  1. Noting the lack of resistance to smallpox by South Americans when the Spanish arrived, and the Australian Aboriginal populations difficulty with alcohol….I wondered whether the exposure of one’s ancestors to substances might have a bearing on one’s own liklihood of falling into difficulties with them. If one’s ancestors had experienced and survived a “drug plague”, might that not improve “resistance”, rather than lower it?Plagues and trends tend to run their course, and unless they can mutate, they die off. I feel that intervention in the drug arena has a low success rate, but claims the credit for anything that might possibly be represented as a “success”.As a 16 year clean former heroin addict I note that the “pioneer” groups who experiment with heroin and suffer the usual statistical events, act as a detterent to the following age bracket. If young people witness the effects of addiction on near peers, they seem less inclined to experiment.Those with no experience to draw from seem more susceptible to the initial experiment. I emphasize that i’m talking about life experience here and not “drug education”.If a person does choose to experiment, about seven out of ten dont like it, and never bother with it again, but the other three….. It’s not that it’s totally contagious, just that some are so susceptible..I have pondered this many times in my life: what is it that makes the difference?I never managed to pin it down.

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