Do Genes Predispose Some Teenage Addictions?

by admin on September 9, 2008

According to a recent study by University of Utah and University of Wisconsin scientists, genes may determine which teen smokers get hooked for life.  White smokers with certain mutations in their genes who pick up the habit by age 17 are five times more likely to struggle with a life long addiction than their peers who do not have the DNA variants.

People who started smoking after the age of 17 who had the same gene variants did not have increased risks of later addiction, researchers found.

This study stresses the importance of focusing on nicotine treatment and educations on teens before they start smoking cigarettes.  Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said “About 10 percent of 12 to 17 year-olds used cigarettes in the past month, according to 2006 data from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.”

The study shows that if you can delay smoking you may actually be able to prevent nicotine addiction” said Volkow.

The researchers studied 2,827 whites identified as long-term smokers.  A greater percentage of whites (31.4 percent), use tobacco than Hispanics, Asians or African-Americans according to the Department of Health & Human Services.  Also whites have smoked twice as much as blacks between the ages of 12-17 in the last month according to DHHS.

Other factors can lead to addiction beyond genetics, such as environment and the age at which someone begins to smoke.  An estimated 62 million Americans ages 12 or older smoked cigarettes in the last month, according to the DHHS data.  More than 6 million of those who start smoking younger than 18 will die from a smoking related disease, according to the agency.

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, based in Bethesda, Maryland.

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