Using the genetics of addiction to improve treatment

specific environments that can lower the manifestations of genetic predispositions increasing people’s risks of developing a substance use disorder.

She exemplified: “In adolescents who report high parental monitoring, the environment is the most important factor in impacting how much they use alcohol and smoke. But for adolescents who report low levels of parental monitoring, their genetic predispositions are far more important in impacting how much they drink and smoke.”

A person’s community and factors like availability and price of drugs or alcohol “can all impact the likelihood that an individual will develop problems,” she said, adding that “individuals who carry risky genetic predispositions and then encounter risky environmental circumstances are at particular risk. On the other hand, the environment can also reduce risk among those who are genetically predisposed.”

Dick also highlighted that there’s a crucial need for increased communication among genetics scientists and professionals working to prevent substance use disorders in order to allow for the creation and implementation of improved intervention or prevention methods. 

“Developing community programming, effective policies, and putting in place strong prevention programs isn’t as ‘sexy’ as genetic research, but it also has huge potential to make an impact on curbing substance use problems. I think it’s worth having hard discussions about where we spend funding and what really has the greatest potential to make an impact on complex outcomes like substance use disorders,” she concluded.