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Can DNA Sequencing Help Treat Addiction?

A researcher says patients' DNA data could soon be used to develop customized treatment.

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Is the solution in our genes?
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By Valerie Tejeda

03/08/13

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A day may come when doctors will be able to use a person’s DNA data to create customized treatments for alcohol and drug addiction, according to Adron Harris, PhD, an addiction expert at the University of Texas. Harris, who is also president of the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism, says genetic sequencing is becoming so affordable that soon we could all have a copy of our own DNA sequence. “You can probably get a USB drive that would have your gene sequence,” he said at a University of Texas event on Thursday. “Whenever you go into a doctor’s office or an emergency room, the first thing they will do is plug in your USB drive and read your DNA sequence.” Harris explained how these advances could lead to a better understanding of drug and alcohol addiction. “Alcohol dependence is a disease of the young,” he said. “This is why the economic impact is so great for it; it’s something that carries over a lifetime.” Harris said the goal would be to develop medications that would target relapse, reduce withdrawal symptoms and help people maintain abstinence. The impact of alcoholism is about the same as heart disease, yet according to Harris, it receives much less attention. “There is no cure for dependency,” he said. “There is not even a race for a cure. There is not a lot of advocacy for this area, compared to other diseases.”

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