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Epigenetics of Addiction: What are you Addicted to?

In a world where is not enough the amount of information, where is not enough physical contact, where is not enough being wealthy or famous, the perfect ingredients mix to create a media culture for any kind of addiction.

From the simplest or healthy ways to be addicted to exercise, wellbeing, wellness, nutrition, stamina, knowledge the most toxic ways such as drugs, medicines, junk food, sugar, pain, indifference, anger, shallow or toxic relationships, etc.

What does addiction means anyway?

Drug addiction, or substance use disorder (SUD), is defined as the compulsive administration of drugs of abuse in spite of negative consequences to the individual and a loss of control over the intake of such drugs (1).

From a Neurobiologic perspective, addiction represents maladaptive neural plasticity in response to drugs of abuse, which involves long-term molecular alterations in key brain regions that control reward, leading to potentially lifelong behavioral abnormalities (2).

Addiction is a complex phenotype that is regulated by both genetic and environmental factors. Information from the environment is recognized by the brain or body and in turn elicits a response, which often involves changes in gene expression.

These gene–environment interactions are relayed by epigenetic mechanisms, including chromatin modifications (sort of shoelaces made of DNA), DNA methylation (small marks on DNA which stain it or make it unreadable), and the expression of noncoding RNAs (small fragments of sequences that attach to DNA and alter its interpretation).

Vulnerability to substance abuse has both genetic and environmental risk factors that act in concert to produce the phenotype so when you’re exposed to drugs, it will become riskier to fall into the abuse, which is necessary for the behavioral phenotype (symptoms) to emerge (3).

In simpler words addiction happens when all the ingredients are mixed just like a cake recipe. The necessary ingredients to trigger any kind of addiction are:

Genetic background: Your DNA (blueprint with all the instructions) has been altered by toxic substances in the environment, in food, due to sedentary lifestyles or by emotional issues since the womb or in childhood. Your Ethnicity and Gender.

Physiology & Behavior: Sensibility to stress, your metabolism (how fast or slow you process a drug), your emotional needs such as craving, tolerance, withdrawal, risk taking and impulsivity.

Environment: Parents, peer influence, stress exposure, your exposure to chemicals in the womb, access to drugs, and pretty much social interactions that may lead to consumption.

With all this background we can assume that more than 90% of people (just an estimate) suffers of addiction, however we previously mentioned that there are some healthier addictions than others.

In terms of any toxic addiction (TA) we do have staggering statistics in many western countries and now also in the occidental culture.

Why is the amount of people becoming addicted to toxic substances, food, emotions or toxic behaviors?

We can attribute most of the addiction to the need of numbing the reality that we are perceiving, an escape of our lives, the urgent need to diminish the pain of some events and the constant amount of negative news that we are being bombarded with.

Many of us know that the only objective of news is to worry people, to put them is a state of fear, to infect them with the “virus” of negativity, drama and tragic effects of the world we live in, because it is easier in that way to control people’s mind to achieve what each individual leader, politic party, or group of corrupt people want to obtain from the majority.

We also know that when we are on high stress feelings and fear, our prefrontal cortex (forehead part of the brain) shuts down and we activate the primitive reptilian brain which doesn’t think just reacts.

Reacts to what?

To the news, to the manipulating information that selfish and evil influencers, politicians, leaders of some political party, any person that has some power and stream media to do it want.

We can also be witness of this trend of addiction of people that walk in the street like zombies, that drive without knowing where to go or looking everywhere except to the road, that perform their jobs with the least effort and overwhelmed by a to do list and a pile of “urgent” mails, that attend their business as if it was the last day of their lives just worried to get out and plug into the cellphones, tablets or any digital device and constantly using the phrases “I’m busy”, “I don’t have time”, “I’m ok”, “I’m surviving”.

What can each of us do to avoid falling infected with the virus?

Here is where the good stuff comes…

  • Lower to the minimum level that you can the amount of news you see, hear or talk;Move your body, walk, run, swim, physical activity;

  • Decompress the stress you have when you finish your days, give yourself at least 10-15 minutes to relax, meditate or at least be in silence or stillness during that time;

  • Monitor or be aware of the toxic thoughts you have and if able write them down;

  • Clean your social circle, the people you’re with influences more than 50% the decisions and emotions you have;

  • Nurture your body, don’t feed it, be aware of the nutrients you’re consuming and avoid processed food and sugar;

  • Take care of your sleep, you should at least sleep 7-9 hours everyday; Have a hobby that motivates you, collecting coins, painting, dancing, reading, etc..your life is not just about your job is also about enjoying things you love !!;

  • Plan at least 3 periods of vacations with your couple, family or friends;

We are not obliged to fall into any of the toxic addictions, we are not helpless to decide which way to take, in fact we have more power to change our trajectory than we think.

It’s just a matter of perception, of the kind of thoughts you want to choose, of the kind of people you wanna be with, of the kind of energy you want to have, of the kind of body and mental state you wanna be and enjoy.

We were given this life to make the best of it in our own unique way …we were not destined to suffer or to waste or lives “surviving” that if you look up the word in the dictionary it literally means “stop existing”.



  • The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 5th ed. American Psychiatric Publishing, Arlington, VA.American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

  • Nestler EJ (2014). Epigenetic mechanisms of drug addiction. Neuropharmacology 76: 259–268.

  • Walker, D. M., & Nestler, E. J. (2018). Neuroepigenetics and addiction. Handbook of Clinical Neurology, 747–765.

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