Breaking the cycle of addiction, a deepening and deadly public health crisis.

Addiction is a chronic illness, with genetic, environmental and social aspects. JAX researchers are at the forefront of understanding the genetic factors involved in individuals’ vulnerability to addiction.

  • Addiction is a chronic illness, with genetic, environmental and social aspects and a high mortality rate despite the existence of effective treatments.
  • Nationwide, the number of deaths due to drugs more than doubled between 2002 to 2015, including a six-fold increase in deaths due to overdose of heroin and illicit opiods.
  • A better understanding of the biology and genetics of addiction could also provide insights into the neurobehavioral aspects of obesity, a major health issue in the U.S. and around the world.

JAX Research: Discovering the genetic factors that increase the risk for addiction

JAX researchers are at the forefront of advancing the understanding of the genetic factors involved in individuals’ vulnerability to addiction. Researchers have established a strong genetic component for addictive behaviors through studying animal models, including laboratory mice. Different mouse strains, which have different genetic backgrounds, show different levels of preference for addictive substances.

By blending classical and cutting-edge genetic approaches, Vivek Kumar, Ph.D.Researches behavior and behavioral abnormalities, including addiction, ADHD and depression, using mouse genetics as a platform.Vivek Kumar is unveiling the genes at work within the brain to control complex behaviors, such as anxiety and addiction. By understanding the biological reasons some people are at greater risk for addiction, Kumar hopes to find new ways to prevent people from being addicted and get help for those who are already addicted and need help now.

In her lab, Elissa Chesler, Ph.D.Researches the genetics underlying behavior and identifies the biological basis for relationships among behavioral traits.Elissa Chesler researches the genetics underlying behavior and is pinpointing the relationships among behavioral traits. Her research has led to a gene library for researchers around the world, where they can mine archived genetic data for new insights into alcoholism and addiction research.

Our goal is to find new ways to prevent addiction in people who are at risk and give doctors the tools they need to guide the choices of medications patients should take before addiction takes hold and ruins lives.