One of the promising emerging models of addiction comes form the burgeoning field of genetic research. One of the more recent findings for example has clearly linked to the mu-opioid gene to smoking addiction, alcohol addiction, and drug addiction.
Researchers at the University of South Florida and the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital report that in comparing gene patterns between alcoholics and normal volunteers, they found that alcoholics had an abundance of a particular form of the mu-opioid gene, the "Alcoholics Anonymous" form, compared to non-alcoholics”. (It is interesting to note the 2-letter designation chosen to identify this particular form of the gene).
Further, as Bart, et al (2005) note “recent advances in molecular genetics have permitted a hypothesis-driven evaluation of specific genes, which animal and molecular studies have demonstrated are altered by alcohol. Examples of this latter approach include the study of genes encoding proteins involved in the metabolism of alcohol (e.g. alcohol dehydrogenase and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase); genes hypothesized to be associated with behaviors linked to an increased risk of alcoholism (e.g. impulsivity and tryptophan hydroxylase); and genes encoding or modulating the transcription of proteins involved in the reinforcing effects of alcohol (e.g. neurotransmitters).
It is clear that genetic research has begun to unravel the genetic code of addiction and yet while genetics definitely play a significant role in addiction it is far from the whole story. At some future point in our genetic engineering abilities it may be possible to alter or change the genetic code yet today we have the reality of the experience of addiction, not at the molecular level but rather at the much larger human scale. Our next model will explore the existential aspects of addiction.