DNA Testing & The Genetics Of Being Black In Addiction

Older African American man seriousAnyone who has watched the PBS series Finding Your Roots has probably seen the pie charts showing how many ethnicities go into the make up of one individual. The show’s guests are often surprised to learn of ancestries and histories that range far and wide.

Most of us know only a patchwork of information about our forebears. Before the 21st century and DNA testing, we learned everything through stories and through the pinpoints of lives found in public records. Considering that tracing our roots back just a few hundred years involves thousands of ancestors, the completeness of our picture fades fast as we track the lines backwards using those old methods.

No one knows this better than American Addiction Centers’ Dr. Howard Wetsman, a longtime champion of DNA testing as part of more precise and individual addiction treatment. Before Wetsman had his own genome tested, he knew himself to be genetically half Irish and half Jewish. He knew it through stories of family history going back a few generations. But the test revealed a surprise.

“I’ve got a liver enzyme (P-450) that’s African. No one would look at me and think I had recent African ancestry.”

While DNA testing can only trace two direct lines out of our countless branches, it does give us a direct link to the far distant past. For that reason, it reflects the travel and coupling of populations over thousands of years.
This is the historic value of DNA testing.