Some people are into the sort of behaviour that we know is harmful. For example, millions and millions of people drink, use illicit drugs, smoke, gamble and so on. You may be one of those people. But why? This new study, led by scientists from UCL, found that these harmful habits may be encrypted in our genes.

Scientists found that some people may be genetically predisposed to smoking, drinking and using drugs. Image credit: Amritanshu Sikdar via Wikimedia

A lot of information about us is written in our genes. You may be genetically predisposed to some mental or physical health conditions, you may be wired better for some tasks, your genes are responsible for your appearance. But what about bad habits? There is a reason why some people fall into some harmful behaviors while others stay cautiously away from it – brain’s reward system. We all want to feel good and some people are seeking for that feeling more blindly than others.

Scientists found that young people who are genetically predisposed to risk-taking, low extraversion and schizophrenia are more likely to use alcohol, cigarettes, cannabis, or other illicit drugs. In other words, that genetic predisposition is not so much about drugs and alcohol – it is more about some personality traits that lead people to seek reward in some risky behaviours. These findings are in line with a previously established notion that people who have a higher risk of psychopathology are more likely to use various drugs and even employ them as a way to ‘self-medicate’. Scientists also found that some people may be predisposed to using multiple drugs, while others are more likely to limit the number of drugs they take.

There were some other interesting findings in this study. For example, genetic predisposition to higher performance in education can be linked to higher use of alcohol and illicit drugs and a lower use of cigarettes. Meanwhile predisposition to high body mass index had the opposite correlations. Scientists think that people with stronger appetite could be looking into nicotine in attempts to eat less – again, cigarettes, drugs and alcohol are not in our genes, but other traits that lead to them are. Scientists say that these findings could help create new prevention and treatment strategies for substance use disorders.

Dr Tabea Schoeler, co-author of the study, said: “Treatment and prevention programmes that target risk-taking behaviours among young people, while also focusing on adolescents with early signs of schizophrenia, could be beneficial in reducing the risk of developing substance use problems”.

You should not use that as an excuse to continue damaging your body. Just because you may be genetically predisposed to something, it doesn’t mean that you have to be that way. You are a conscious person and you should conduct a lifestyle that keeps you healthy for longer.


Source: UCL