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Close up of nurses hands holding buccal cotton swab and test tube ready to collect DNA from the cells.

Researchers Explore Whether Genetic Testing Can Predict Addictive Behavior

With the opioid addiction crisis wreaking havoc on families across the nation, it’s understandable that researchers are being called upon to lend a hand. Ohio, in particular, is a state that has seen a tremendous spike in fatal overdoses. So, scientists at the University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University are joining forces to see if genetic testing can help as a preventative tactic.

The thought behind this revolutionary analysis goes back to the doctor’s office and the very first step of an opioid dependency. It is there where prescriptions are first written (perhaps after a surgery or accident). But if a test like this were to work, doctors could know ahead of time who may be predisposed to form an addiction. And if that were possible, then it could change the entire way painkillers are dispensed.

For the record, this isn’t a small research study. It has received over $1.6 million in funding and will carry through during the year 2020. The plan is to analyze 1,500 emergency room patients (some with addiction problems, some without) and swab their cheeks for genetic feedback.

For lead medical reps in Ohio, the opportunity to get a better understanding of a patient’s addiction tendencies could be a huge advancement. University of Cincinnati Medical Center director Caroline Freiermuth was very encouraged by the research announcement.

“I’m constantly faced with this battle. How do I decide how much pain medication to give someone?” Freiermuth told USA Today. “I want to treat their pain, but I don’t want them to suffer or purchase illicit opioids on the street. I really don’t want to be contributing to this devastating opioid crisis.”

Many in the field consider this the be the most comprehensive genetic addiction research to date. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has also been a vocal proponent. As he puts it, this could not only help medical professionals, but also law enforcement and everyday people who would potentially have the ability to steer clear of substance abuse.

Yost even offered a firsthand example of the genetic predispositions that are already common amongst people throughout the country.

“What I want to know is why I was able to take painkillers after a back surgery without becoming addicted to the drugs, but my friend, a U.S. Marine, had his life upended by opioids,” Yost explained. “This is not a guy that lacks willpower. Why am I standing here today drug-free and he is struggling to maintain, years later, his sobriety?”

Lets hope the results of this exciting new research can help provide some insight.