Thrill-Seeking Pain Management

Genetic tests identify nicotine addiction

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Adolescents who start smoking are probably trying it to take a step on the wild side and leave their childhood behind, while adults who become addicted to nicotine tend to be managing their stress.

Researchers were interested in testing the hypothesis that risk factors for addiction are constantly changing throughout one's life. They were able to locate two different variants of associated genes.  One variant was found largely in the adolescents who smoke and the other was found largely in the adults who smoke.

"Genetic testing may identify a propensity for nicotine addiction."

Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, thinks this makes sense as adults have different reasons and motivators leading into nicotine addiction than adolescents. Because of these different reasons and motivators, a different set of genes are associated with addiction to nicotine in these two age groups.

Francesca Ducci and her team found a variant in dopamine-related genes which seems to be closely associated with addiction risk in the context of thrill-seeking. 

The team also found a variant in another set of genes coded for nicotinic cholinergic receptors, associated with mood and addiction may contribute to self-medication models.

In Depth

  • Researchers noticed that adolescents carrying a variation in a set of dopamine-related genes were three times more likely to become a regular smoker in their youth
  • Adolescents with the variation of the set of dopamine-related genes were also two times more likely to continue smoking into adulthood than adolescents without that set of genes
  • Variation in a set of genes coded for subunits of the nicotinic cholinergic receptors have a strong influence on the likelihood of smoking addiction in adults
  • The variation in the set of genes coded for subunits of the nicotinic cholinergic receptors are less likely to influence a teenagers' smoking habits
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 3, 2011
Last Updated:
April 17, 2011