Studying a person's chromosomes reveals information about people's actions that many of us may have pondered in puzzlement. How does she/he drink numerous alcoholic beverages throughout the day and not keel over? How did she/he become addicted so easily to opiates or meth?
The answer may be in our DNA. The Human Genome Project discovered that some people’s bodies can detoxify alcohol more rapidly than normal. Ossie Osbourne was studied--a case in point. Also, genes can have variations making the tendency towards addiction more likely.
The four page article in Discover magazine, “Addicted, More or Less” by Bill Sullivan, provided information to which I could personally relate. I only need to have one gin and tonic to feel tipsy and for my cheeks to become radiantly rosy. Now I know why. I have AFR (alcohol flush reaction) which is a “genetic variant that impairs production of an enzyme that helps break down alcohol in the body.” People with AFR are less likely to become alcoholics, thank goodness.
That toxic enzyme is acetaldehyde which is converted from alcohol by the liver. Acetaldehyde also comes into play with diabetics, which is another story. In the liver function of a normal human body, acetaldehyde is broken down to acetate which is not toxic.
Because there are wide variants in the human genome, people do not process the substances they put into their bodies in the same manner. Many people have mutant genes which actually lead them down the path to addiction.
I am not sure what the answer is to the underlying problem of addiction in our society. What is the treatment for a person whose genome reveals that he/she is genetically predisposed to addiction? We used to think it was in their mental state, attitude or self control.
Of course, scientists now know how to clone. Wouldn’t that make life boring? Genome sequencing is still in its infancy. The gene mutations found in Americans may be different in foreign populations. Why are some people combative and others are content exhibiting a peaceful and loving attitude? In the future will we be asking our intended spouses to undergo genome sequencing? Are genome revelations a Pandora’s Box?
©Ann Rains November 1, 2019
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