TUESDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment for drug
addiction is affected by a person's genetic makeup and the duration
of substance abuse, U.S. scientists report.
A research team at the Brookhaven National Laboratory found that
drug addicts who have a certain genetic makeup have lower gray
matter density -- and therefore fewer neurons -- in areas of the
brain that are important for decision-making, self-control,
learning and memory.
"This research shows that genes can influence the severity of addiction," study co-author Nelly Alia-Klein, a medical scientist, said in a Brookhaven news release. "The results suggest that addicted individuals with low MAOA [monoamine oxidase A] genotype may need a different kind of treatment than other addicted individuals who carry the high MAOA genotype."
She said that additional study is needed before treatment
strategies should change. "However, addiction treatment
professionals and others who manage addicted individuals, such as
probation officers and judges, should be informed of these and
other new findings in the neurobiology of drug addiction,"
The study, which included 40 men addicted to cocaine and 42
non-addicted men, also found that the longer someone abuses
cocaine, alcohol and cigarettes, the lower the amount of gray
matter in frontal areas of the brain (responsible for
decision-making and self-control) and the hippocampus (responsible
for learning and memory).
The finding, published March 7 in the
Archives of General Psychiatry, suggests that ending drug use may help protect people against such brain changes.
"Only males were part of this study, and therefore it is important for future studies to examine these genetic and brain effects in females as well," Klein said. "Also, further studies will have to be done to track these gene-brain behavior patterns throughout a life span that influence the volume of the brain's neurons."
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about
drug addiction treatments.