How likely you are to becoming a cocaine addict could well depend on your genetic make up, say researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry. Some people have a gene variation which stops the production of a protein that regulates dopamine in the brain.

The researchers said that if you have two copies of this gene variation, your chances of becoming addicted to cocaine are 50% higher.

You can read about this study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was funded by the Medical Research Council (UK).

The researchers studied the DNA of 1550 people. 700 of them were cocaine abusers while 850 were not.

We all produce a protein called DAT. DAT controls the removel of excess dopamine from the brain. Cocaine inhibits the action of DAT leading to dopamine overload. The dopamine overload is what gives the cocaine abuser the ?high? feeling.

Part of our genetic code controls the production of DAT. The researchers found that people who had two copies of the variant that controls DAT production were 50% more likely to become cocaine addicts.

Obviously, if you have two copies of this variant and never touch cocaine your chances of becoming addicted to it are zero. Everyone will eventually become addicted to cocaine, if they take it often enough and for long enough. People with this gene variant are more likely to become addicted sooner.

Dr Gerome Breen, head researcher, said ?This study is the first large scale search for a genetic variant influencing the risk of developing cocaine addiction or dependence. The target we investigated, DAT, is the single most important in the development of cocaine dependence. It made sense that variation within the gene encoding DAT would influence cocaine dependence.”

It was found that people who had the genetic variant were more likely to inhibit the DAT response when taking cocaine.

Hopefully, this new finding may eventually help in the designing of new drugs for the treatment of cocaine addiction, say the researchers.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today