Is Addiction in your Genes?

Why do some people struggle with things like nicotine or gambling, while others can do it casually with no problem? Could certain people be more inclined to addiction? A German study seems to show that certain people may be more susceptible to addiction.

The DNA of healthy individuals was compared to those with Internet addiction. Upon further examination, they discovered that many problematic Internet users displayed a genetic predisposition toward addiction that has been connected to other cravings like nicotine.

Researchers from the University of Bonn surveyed 843 individuals to find more about how they used and viewed the Internet. They found that 16 percent of the group displayed problematic usage and thought processes regarding the web.

These individuals admitted to obsessing over the Internet throughout the day and said that being without the Internet would negatively impact their wellbeing. Lead researcher, Dr. Christian Montag said that Internet addiction is real and that data is starting to prove it.

Investigators found that the 132 individuals who confessed to problematic Internet behavior were more likely to possess the gene variant associated with nicotine addiction. Dr. Montag advised that addictive behavior stems from a genetic mutation that occurs in the brain on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor.

What happens is, nicotine attaches to the receptor like acetylcholine would normally do. It artificially mimics the process that would naturally occur in the body. When activated, the neurotransmitters involved trigger a reward response in the brain. Dr. Montag further advised that the brain connection responsible for nicotine addiction is essentially the same for Internet addiction.

In other words, when researchers took a closer look, they could see that the Internet addicted group was more likely to exhibit the particular gene mutation than those who didn’t struggle with problematic Internet use.

While the research is in its infancy, it does provoke thought and warrants further testing to see if the link between Internet addiction and the gene variant remains consistent.