If you’ve ever attended an AA or NA meeting and heard someone say: “I became an alcoholic the first time I picked up a drink” or “I’m an addict because I’m just wired differently”, then, they might be right, according to new research undertaken by the University of Cambridge.
Researchers at the University studied the brains of addicts and the brains of their non-addicted brothers or sisters and findings suggest that addicts may have a ‘disorder of the brain’.
When the addicts and the non-addict siblings were studied, it was found that each had an ‘abnormality’ in the part of the brain which controls one’s behaviour – the fronto-striatal systems.
Researchers said that not only did this help to suggest that addicts brains were hard-wired to be addictive in the first place, but also that the same abnormalities found in the non-addict siblings means that one day we might have a ‘cure’ for addiction, by studying the differences in their behaviours.
A leading academic told the BBC: “It shows that drug addiction is not a choice of lifestyle, it is a disorder of the brain and we need to recognise this.”
Although the research is far from over into exactly why some people become addicts and others don’t – even with similar upbringings and genetics – it offers great hope for the future.
Dr Paul Keedwell, a consultant psychiatrist at Cardiff University, said: “Addiction, like most psychiatric disorders, is the product of nature and nurture.
“We need to follow up people over time to quantify the relative risk of nature versus nurture.”