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NIH to Fund Projects Focused on Genetic, Epigenetic Basis of Drug and Alcohol Co-addiction

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health is planning to fund research into the genetic and epigenetic factors that may promote alcohol and drug co-addiction, according to a funding announcement published this week.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse plan to fund studies that seek to explain how alcohol and stimulant drugs interact at the genetic, epigenetic, cellular, neurocircuitry, and behavioral levels, and how these dynamics are involved in co-addiction.

Although some co-addictions may simply represent "a chance intersection" in which the use of one drug does not influence the use of another, some findings suggest there may be underlying molecular or behavioral factors involved, NIH said in the funding announcement.

"For example, specific genes may be predictive of both alcohol and stimulant use, these drug combinations may produce synergistic subjective drug effects, or the use of one drug may offset the undesired effects of the other," NIH said.

Heritability of alcohol and stimulant addiction has been "convincingly demonstrated," and it appears that genetic factors play a substantial role in susceptibility to these addictions, particularly because family studies have already identified genes that may be involved, NIH noted.

"However, whether there are common genetic factors that influence susceptibility to alcohol and stimulant addiction has not been thoroughly studied, even though alcohol and stimulant addiction frequently co-occur in the same individual," NIH said.

Beyond the genetic and epigenetic levels, this funding also will support research into neurotransmitters and neuropeptide mechanisms, neuroimmune factors, the role of conditioned and discriminative stimuli, and the neuroadaptation of circuits associated with alcohol and drug addiction.

NIH has not set a specific funding limit for the grants.