Researchers Find Gene Variant That May Help Opioid Addiction Therapy; Personalized Treatment May Be Possible

First Posted: Jan 26, 2017 04:10 AM EST

Opioid addiction is very common lately. Now, the researchers claim that they have found a genetic variant that is linked to opioid addiction. Also, it may lead to a personalized treatment for the condition.

Consumer Health Day reported that, specifically, the variant was found in African Americans affecting the gene OPRM1. It is responsible for the way opioids affect the brain. The researchers at Yale University said that this may identify which African Americans might require higher doses of methadone.

Methadone is an effective treatment for people who have experienced heroin addiction. However, proper dosing of methadone is critical. Too much dosage can cause some sedation and breathing difficulties that can lead to danger. However, too low of the dose can lead to a relapse.

A student in the M.D./Ph.D. program and the study lead author, Andrew Smith, said that, "Opioid addiction has become a national epidemic, and improving the effectiveness of medical therapies has to be a priority."

The researchers also said that they have found the same gene variant that can predict the morphine dose that is required for effective pain control for African American children undergoing surgery.

A professor of psychiatry, genetic and neuroscience at Yale University and the study senior author, said that, "We found specific gene effects in people with African ancestry, an understudied population," according to Yale University News Release.

The findings were published on Jan. 24 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. Thus, the researchers did not find these gene effects in people of European ancestry that had a methadone treatment. Both Gelernter and Smith said that follow-up studies are necessary for them to confirm the effects of what they discovered in their recent study.

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