If you could order a genetic test that could tell you whether you were at risk for opioid abuse later in life, would you take it? The test would be something like the one available from companies currently offering health predisposition information along with DNA testing. Instead of indicating whether someone has a higher-than-average risk of developing heart disease, the proposed test would tell who is at risk for opioid addiction.
A New Jersey research institute is working with leaders in the medical community, scientists and academics to unravel the genetic code as it pertains to opioid dependency.
Team Investigates Factors Contributing to Opioid Abuse
The Coriell Institute for Medical Research, Rowan University’s Cooper Medical School and Cooper University Health Care have come together to launch the Camden Opioid Research Initiative (CORI). This team will investigate “genetic and biological factors that contribute to opioid abuse.”
One key part of the study will involve collecting and testing tissue samples from people who have lost their lives from an opioid overdose. The researchers will also be studying people currently in treatment for opioid addiction, along with patients who are receiving prescription opioids for chronic pain treatment but have not become addicted. The findings from the two groups will be compared.
Stefan Zajic, the principal scientist and scientific lead for CORI, explained that the dream for scientists would be to have access to a profile or algorithm that would provide doctors and patients with information about genetic factors that may influence their susceptibility to opioid addiction.
Genetic Test Could Influence Future Prescribing Habits
If a genetic test were available to indicate to healthcare providers which patients are at higher risk for opioid addiction, a doctor could take that factor into consideration when making decisions about which medications to prescribe. The doctor may choose to prescribe a non-opioid, adjust the dose if he or she decides to prescribe an opioid medication or prescribe a smaller number of pills so that the patient can be monitored more closely for follow-up.
The research team will work with the medical examiner’s office to establish a biobank of the tissue samples (with the respective families’ permission). Zajic believes it will be the first one of its kind in the country. The tissue samples will be made available to researchers in the field of opioid abuse going forward.