Can Meth Addiction Be Explained By Your Genes?

By Keri Blakinger 12/15/15

Scientists might be a step closer to finding a medication to treat meth addiction.

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A new study may have identified a gene that’s linked to meth addiction and could explain genetic risk factors for both meth use and certain neuropsychiatric problems.

In their findings, Boston University School of Medicine researchers say that they’ve identified a gene connected with the response to meth.

Known as heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein H1 (Hnrnph1), the gene that scientists singled out has not been linked to the behavioral effects of stimulants in the past, but the new research published in PLOS Genetics sheds a different light on the gene’s functionality. Using a new model, researchers figured out which part of the chromosome was associated with differing reactions to meth. From there, scientists used fine mapping and genome editing to zone in on the specific portion of the chromosome affecting the response to meth.

What they found is that Hnrnph1 codes for an RNA protein that regulates the processing of a slew of other genes in the brain. This means that, in order to understand the genetic basis of meth addiction even better, the next step is to figure out the exact genetic targets of Hnrnph1.

"A better understanding of the brain region and cell type-specific binding targets of Hnrnph1 will tell us more about the function of this gene and possibly identify new therapeutic strategies for minimizing risk and treating psychostimulant addiction - a disorder for which there is currently no FDA-approved drug," study co-author Dr. Camron Bryant said, according to Medical Xpress.

In other words, this bit of research may help scientists figure out a prescription drug to help treat meth addiction, a discovery that could revolutionize addiction treatment.

Also, this study could lead to other related findings involving the treatment of both dopamine-related problems like ADHD, schizophrenia, and bipolar as well as dopamine-related neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s or Huntington’s.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.