Frances Bean Cobain and the Genetics of Addiction

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Frances Bean Cobain, daughter of famous rockers Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, recently posted a message on Instagram where, for the first time, she acknowledged publicly that she’s in recovery from addiction. She said it was her “2nd sober birthday,” meaning she hasn’t used drugs in 2 years.

Kurt Cobain’s addiction may have contributed to his suicide, and Courtney Love has told interviewers about her own drug problems. Does this mean that Frances was going to become addicted to drugs, no matter what? No. There are many risk factors for addiction, but none of them mean that a person will develop an addiction for sure.

“Addiction genes”?

Frances’ Instagram post is a reminder that we still have a lot to learn about exactly how genetics and addiction are connected. Children can’t control the genes they inherit from their parents. But teens who know they may be at greater risk for addiction can be extra careful about the choices they make.

Some of a person’s genes contribute to an increased or reduced risk of certain diseases, including addiction. But the person’s experiences and environment can influence which genes are “expressed” (switched on or off). These genetic patterns can be passed on to their children and grandchildren.

So, Frances could have been born at greater risk of developing addiction than children whose parents aren’t regular drug users. So far, though, there are no tests to find “addiction genes.”

Smart decisions

The good news is that scientists are investigating new ways to treat and prevent addiction. And one study has discovered that the addiction risk may be related to gene expression in one region of the brain.

Until we know more, people like Frances Bean Cobain—who think they may be more vulnerable to addiction because of their parents’ drug use—can protect themselves by not experimenting with drugs.

Learn more: What increases the risk of using drugs again after quitting?

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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