Gene Variant in African Americans Offers Insight Into Opioid Dependence Treatment
Yale researchers have discovered a genetic variant, present in African Americans, that may effect the future of opioid dependence treatment.
According to the news release, the variant identified African Americans who may require higher doses of methadone. Methadone is considered to be one of the most effective treatments for persons addicted to prescription opioids or heroin.
As it stands, dose requirements for patients treated with methadone can differ greatly, and pinpointing the exact dose needed is essential for recovery. For example, if the dose is too high, sedation can result, as well as impaired breathing. However, if the dose is too low, the chance of relapse increases.
Researchers posit that the finding may help physicians to more quickly identify patients needing higher doses.
Incidentally, the study found that the same variant also predicts the appropriate dose of morphine to control pain in African American children undergoing surgery.
As of yet no similar effect has been found in those of European ancestry undergoing methadone treatment. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there, waiting to be discovered.
Joel Gelernter, senior author and the Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry, professor of genetics and of neuroscience:
“We found specific gene effects in people with African ancestry, an understudied population.”
Moreover, this variant could be used to customize medication-assisted treatment for African-Americans with opioid addiction. Researchers also noted that future studies are needed to confirm the effects they observed.
About The Opiod Epidemic
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 33,000 persons died in 2015 from an overdose related to prescription painkillers or heroin.
Those of Caucasian decent do represent the majority of the overdoses, possibly in part due to racial bias on the part of physicians who prescribe these medications.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology