Since the first sequencing of the human genome in 2003, there have been exhaustive studies of links between the human gene structure and addiction. Discover Magazine published a report on genes and addiction (November 2019 issue) with a summary of the current findings.
The magazine focuses on Ozzy Osbourne, the singer/songwriter and reality TV star who is sometimes called “The Godfather of Heavy Metal.” He is famous for going on binges of alcohol, Vicodin, cocaine, and other drugs that would kill most humans. He has survived to be 70 years old. The question is why Osbourne was able to survive all of this abuse for such a long time. One major factor seems to be a mutation in the ADH4 gene. The ADH4 makes a protein called alcohol dehydrogenase 4, which breaks down alcohol. The researchers have concluded that Osbourne is six times more likely to have an alcohol dependency than the average person because alcohol has a minimal effect on him.
The question arises of what are the links between genes and addiction to alcohol and other substances. The Food and Drug Administration says that one in every 12 adults in the United States suffers from alcohol abuse or dependence. Americans spend $200 million a day on alcohol, and 100,000 people die each year from accidents linked to alcohol. People of East Asian descent have an increase in heart rate when consuming alcohol. That effect is called “Asian Flush” or “alcohol flush reaction.” Researches have also found genetic links to anandamide, which is a brain chemical that affects mood and anxiety. Marijuana doesn’t affect people with mutations that alter the amount of anandamide in the brain.
This newfound information tells us a lot about how mutations have shaped how we behave in our consumption of different chemicals. Obviously, if a person doesn’t consume the chemical, the mutations are not an issue. For some people, this information enables them to justify blaming God for their addiction. There are drugs like disulfiram, which cause people to have an unpleasant reaction to the consumption of alcohol. However, using a drug to counteract a destructive drug is a poor solution to the overall problem.
The mutations that have caused all of this are man-made. The mutations are linked to a variety of human enterprises, including the distillation of alcohol. In the distant past, addition was not much of an issue, because the chemical effect of undistilled alcohol is minimal. Alcohol is a drug, and it needs to be identified as such. God has not caused the mutations, and humans are responsible for virtually all of the drugs that are causing so much pain and destruction.
So there is a connection between genes and addiction, and science is looking for ways to change the human genome to exclude the mutations. The biblical solution is to form a relationship with God that leads us away from the destructive forces around us. At the same time, we need to reach out to those who are struggling with their addictions and help them find a way out of their lifestyle of abuse. Walking in the light (1 John 1) involves a conscious change that leads to a new life (Romans 6). God did not lead us to destructive lifestyles, but He will help us build a newness in our lives if we are willing to turn things over to Him.
— John N. Clayton © 2019