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Researchers have found staggering numbers of drug addicts among incarcerated populations and have conceded that drug abuse is an important correlate of deviant behavior, but few included an understanding of the biological process leading to drug addiction. Chronic drug abuse and criminality are housed within a much broader propensity of some individuals to engage in a variety of antisocial behaviors, and this article clarifies the link and proposed shared mechanisms between criminal behavior and drug abuse through a molecular-genetic and neurobiological lens. Multiple genes, enzymes, and transcription factors are involved in drug addition, with over 100 genes known to be changed with repeated cocaine exposure. The epigenetics of drug addiction, with a specific emphasis on the addiction of cocaine, are brought under examination here. The epigenetic processes of methylation and acetylation are described and their long term effects are illustrated within the processes of allostatic changes to the brain. After the establishment of the rudiments of epigenetic operation and their effects, a discussion is presented on the opponent process and incentive-sensitization models of drug addiction and how all of these factors are impacted by socio-cultural variables.

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This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. The final, definitive version of this document can be found online at Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, published by SAGE. Copyright restrictions may apply. DOI: 10.1177/1043986212450226

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