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The Roots of Addiction

A gene that may protect you against drug addiction.

In the race to find genes that trigger disease and dependency, we often forget that some shield us from harm. Now, scientists show that a gene may guard us against addiction.

Mary Jeanne Kreek, M.D., head of the Laboratory on the Biology of Addictive Diseases at Rockefeller University, and colleagues recruited heroin-addicted and drug-free adults to examine genetic differences in their mu opioid receptors—areas in the brain where drugs like heroin bind to create highs.

One mu receptor gene type, dubbed A118G, was significantly more prevalent in drug-free Hispanic subjects than in Hispanics hooked on heroin. Kreek believes that other ethnic groups may also carry this gene. "It's exciting that we've found something that may protect against opioid addiction."