Genetic Variants Associated with Opioid Use Disorder: A Breakthrough Study
As per information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US witnessed over 107,000 deaths due to drug overdoses in 2021, with an alarming 23% increase in overdose deaths from synthetic opioids over the previous year. Moreover, the economic cost of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) and opioid-related overdose mortality exceed $1 billion annually in the United States. Amidst this pressing crisis, a recent study published in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics has emerged as a beacon of hope for finding new ways to tackle the OUD epidemic.
The study enrolled approximately 1,300 patients at three large urban emergency departments in Ohio, a state that has been ranking in the top five for opioid overdose deaths since 2014. The researchers aimed to determine the genetic link between opioid use disorder and any random person who visits the emergency department. They sought to identify whether genetics could likely play a role in OUD’s development in patients’ lives.
The study found that genetics play a role in the development of OUD, but simultaneous interaction with environmental factors also contributes significantly to the disease’s occurrence. The study concluded that further exploration of biogeographic genetic ancestry groups and their association with OUD is warranted.
The researchers identified that there are several single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with opioid use disorder. The discovery could help determine which individuals might need more control when exposed to opioids and who should and should not prescribe opioids in the future. The researchers suggest that more studies are needed to highlight the true impact of genetic variants and how external factors contribute to the development of OUD.
“I think this is really exciting because it should help us try to figure out who is really at risk when exposed to opioids, and that might make it easier for us to decide who we can and can’t prescribe opioids for,” said Freiermuth, one of the research team members. “This could help determine who might need more control in the future rather than just saying ‘no one should get more than a certain amount.’”
In conclusion, the study offers a ray of hope in identifying the role of genetics in opioid use disorder development, along with the need to explore biogeographic genetic ancestry groups’ association with OUD. It is essential to encourage researchers to focus on these key factors and identify newer, innovative ways to address the opioid crisis.
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Reference: Freiermuth CE, Kisor DF, Lambert J, et al. Genetic variants associated with opioid use disorder. Clin Pharma and Therapeutics. 2023;113(5):1089-1095. doi: 10.1002/capt.2864
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