Genetic testing aims to predict opioid addiction risk

Image Courtesy: MGN Online

Could the answer to ending the opioid crisis be locked in our genetic code?

A medical research company is offering a test kit to measure a patient's likelihood of becoming addicted.

Our genes--the mysterious puzzle pieces that make us who we are; our behaviors, our appearance, and our heritage are all knitted into our DNA, but it also can play a role in our health.

"The human genome's a pretty complicated place, and there's a lot going on," said Medical Geneticist Mary-Alice Abbott. Developers of Life Kit looked to use what we know about DNA to help in the opioid epidemic.

Through a simple swab test, researchers check for sixteen markers in our genes connected to a patient's likelihood to become addicted. "They've chosen a very limited number of some genes that we know are involved in the way our brain reacts to positive influences, negative influences, and the pleasure and reward access of the brain," Abbott noted. Dr. Abbott from Baystate Medical Center is a leader in cracking our genetic code. "There is some understanding that people metabolize drugs in different ways, and we're starting to understand how to use tests to look at some of that," she explained. Doctors we spoke to warns that this research is in its infancy, and there is more work to be done.

Dr. Abbott said our genes could be painting a bigger picture. However, the makers of Life Kit predict tout that the product can identify with 97 percent certainty if a person has a low genetic risk of opioid dependancy.

The company said in part:

"Much of the focus has been on reactive solutions that have been largely ineffective, versus working to prevent addiction before it starts." "There may be some potential for these sorts of tests in the future," Abbott said.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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