7 Jul 2014

Gene test to pinpoint addictions

3:12 pm on 7 July 2014

A simple gene test could show likely a person is to become addicted to drugs or alcohol or experience particular mental health issues, a Ph.D student says.

Victoria University Ph.D student Bridget Brox has made the discovery as part of her psychology research into drug addiction and how it affects the brain and behaviour.

Ms Brox is studying a gene known as 5-HTT, which she said could indicate whether a person was more or less likely to developing depression, anxiety or alcohol or drug addiction.

She said it could be a real breakthrough.

"Of all the people that take drugs or abuse, only about 15 to 20 percent of those individuals actually go on to develop the compulsive behaviours that define addiction, so for us we want to understand why is that, what's different say for two people who take the same drug - one becomes addicted and one does not, we want to understand why."

However, Ms Brox acknowledged inappropriate testing could set a dangerous precedent.

"I think it could be beneficial but ... it's obviously a slippery slope, and some people would be very concerned about that information getting out there to employers or insurance companies or anything like that, then being discriminated against."

The information should be for personal use only, she said.