Genetic Addiction Risk Score (GARS): Molecular Neurogenetic Evidence for Predisposition to Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS)

We have published extensively on the neurogenetics of brain reward systems with reference to the genes related to dopaminergic function in particular. In 1996, we coined "Reward Deficiency Syndrome" (RDS), to portray behaviors found to have gene-based association with hypodopaminergic function. RDS as a useful concept has been embraced in many subsequent studies, to increase our understanding of Substance Use Disorder (SUD), addictions, and other obsessive, compulsive, and impulsive behaviors. Interestingly, albeit others, in one published study, we were able to describe lifetime RDS behaviors in a recovering addict (17 years sober) blindly by assessing resultant Genetic Addiction Risk Score (GARS™) data only. We hypothesize that genetic testing at an early age may be an effective preventive strategy to reduce or eliminate pathological substance and behavioral seeking activity. Here, we consider a select number of genes, their polymorphisms, and associated risks for RDS whereby, utilizing GWAS, there is evidence for convergence to reward candidate genes. The evidence presented serves as a plausible brain-print providing relevant genetic information that will reinforce targeted therapies, to improve recovery and prevent relapse on an individualized basis. The primary driver of RDS is a hypodopaminergic trait (genes) as well as epigenetic states (methylation and deacetylation on chromatin structure). We now have entered a new era in addiction medicine that embraces the neuroscience of addiction and RDS as a pathological condition in brain reward circuitry that calls for appropriate evidence-based therapy and early genetic diagnosis and that requires further intensive investigation.

Authors:  Blum K1, Oscar-Berman M, Demetrovics Z, Barh D, Gold MS.

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