Boston University Researchers May Have Found a Gene Connected to Drug Addiction

They found a specific gene that may influence how much of a reward users get from methamphetamine.

It’s common knowledge that substance abuse has some genetic component—hence why alcoholism runs in families, for example—but the specifics have always been convoluted. A new study from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), however, may have found a gene that predisposes individuals to drug addiction.

Expression of the gene, known as Hnrnph1, seems to influence how much of a reward response individuals get from methamphetamine—a connection that has never been pinpointed before.

BUSM researchers identified the chromosomal region responsible for how sensitive a person is to meth’s stimulants, then narrowed that further to examine how each specific gene in that region affects someone’s reaction to the drug. Hnrnph1, which helps regulate the processes of other genes in the brain, seemed to have a strong link.

The study’s findings could help researchers develop the first FDA-approved drug for treating psychostimulant addiction, according to a statement from BUSM, and it could have implications for other disorders that stem from dopamine imbalance, like ADHD and schizophrenia.

Beyond that, it’s a key first step toward unraveling the opaque science behind drug addiction.