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Are your Genes Responsible for Your Smoking Addiction?

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Scientists believe DNA testing could uncover the genes responsible for addiction. Although it’s a complicated and subtle interplay between our genetic make-up, the environment and whether we become addicted to nicotine, it is thought analysing DNA could help develop drugs to help treat addicts.

Smoking Ban

Never before has the need to give up smoking been more urgent. Aside from the obvious health impact, the UK has now enforced a smoking ban in public places. Smoking is now anti-social and a far cry from being the ‘cool’ and ‘glamorous’ habit it was once thought to be. Smoking is known to be one of the hardest addictions to quit, so could DNA testing provide some crucial help?

Testing for Nicotine Addiction

Several years ago, the BBC reported that testing a person’s DNA could help smokers quit the habit.These tests require a few drops of blood, and the simple DNA test could help discover who has the addictive gene and which method of quitting is more suitable. The idea that there could be a tailor-made treatment to fit the individual’s genetic make-up was first suggested by an Oxford University team researching the subject of smoking cessation.

Does DNA Testing work?

So how does DNA testing for nicotine addiction work? The DNA test has been dubbed the Nico Test – and it works in the same way that diabetics test for blood-sugar. There is still debate around DNA and addiction, but the Oxford team discovered that the ‘addictive gene’ is present in 35% of us, and it’s these people who are more likely to benefit from treatments such as nicotine replacement therapy. The team suggested that if  the test revealed you didn’t have the addictive gene, you could successfully quit smoking using nicotine-free methods.

Nicotine and Quitting

Testing DNA can help work out how quickly a smoker can flush out nicotine from their system, which in turn can help work out what dose of nicotine replacement therapy they need to succeed. The Oxford scientists also said that double the number of people succeeded in quitting as a result of discovering the gene and using the right nicotine replacement therapy. Currently, around 96% of smokers who try to quit fail. Only around 5% who go cold turkey without any help or replacement therapy succeed.

It’s thought that parents would be particularly interested to know if their children had the gene. A test could help make people more aware if they are vulnerable to nicotine addiction. It’s thought by many scientists that there is still a long way to go and a lot to uncover when it comes to the role of genetics and DNA testing in determining and treating addictions.

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