Early life substance abuse and epigenetic programming

Jonna M. Leyrer-Jackson, Lauren E. Hood, M. Foster Olive

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The vulnerability to substance use disorders (SUDs) is reliant on genetic, environmental, and social factors. The interaction of environmental and genetic factors, particularly epigenetic mechanisms, has recently gained attention as a potent contributor to the development of SUDs. Epigenetic modifications are defined as heritable changes in gene expression not caused by alterations in the DNA sequence. Recent evidence has shown that abused substances, including alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, and marijuana, have profound effects on gene expression, which can persist over long periods of time. Interestingly, both maternal and paternal drug use prior to conception, as well as prenatal drug exposure, has been shown to alter gene expression in offspring and can predispose to future drug use. Epigenetic modifications are also induced following adolescent and adult drug use. This chapter highlights the various types of epigenetic modifications induced by abused substances and the effects of these modifications on future vulnerability to SUDs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPerinatal and Developmental Epigenetics
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 32 in Translational Epigenetics
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9780128217856
ISBN (Print)9780128217863
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol
  • Cellular neuroscience
  • Cocaine
  • Drug use
  • Epigenetics
  • Marijuana
  • Molecular biology
  • Molecular neuroscience
  • Nicotine
  • Opiate
  • Pharmacology
  • Substance use
  • Toxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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