As a child of an alcoholic, I discovered at an early age that I might also have an addictive personality. Since we get half of our DNA from our biological fathers and half from our biological mothers, I knew I had upwards of a 50% chance of being an alcoholic myself. Our DNA not only plays a role in our appearance, but also how our bodies respond to various conditions. Once I was introduced to the science of genetics, I began to more clearly understand how my parents influenced my physiological reactions to substances such as alcohol, medications and illicit drugs. Additionally, I began to realize that a large population of those struggling with substance abuse are engaging in destructive behavior as a coping mechanism for undiagnosed mental illnesses ranging from depression to schizophrenia.
Research has shown that some patients use marijuana to reduce chronic stress, which has a strong correlation to depression. Patients suffering from social anxiety, commonly drink alcohol to feel more comfortable in social situations. The patient who struggles with panic attacks, may take benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium in order to calm the symptoms or stop the attacks before they start. Using Adderall, cocaine or crystal methamphetamine to increase one’s energy levelto accomplish daily tasks are very common among patients with low energy and lack of motivation.
If a person were to receive the diagnosis of a mental illness, they would probably be prescribed a medications to treat the symptoms.
However, the prescription may not consider the person’s genetic profile and their ability to effectively metabolize that medication.
Additionally, the side effects produced from the medication, may actually be worse than the original symptoms themselves. As a result,
the patient returns to the substance which makes them “feel better” and the cycle continues.
With proper diagnosis AND genetic testing for medication management, I believe it is possible to effectively treat more patients suffering from substance abuse.