The Role of Genetics in Opioid Use Disorder

Scientists have known for some time that a person's DNA can affect the way they react to certain drugs.

A person may have a genetic variant or variants which can cause them to metabolize a drug much more quickly than normal or might instead cause a slow metabolism of a particular drug.

We know this principle holds true for opioids. What would be a normal dose in most people could be significantly stronger in someone with a certain genetic makeup, opening up a greater possibility for accidental overdose or development of an opioid use disorder (OUD).

Further, genetic differences in the way our brains respond to the chemicals in opioids can impact who develops a dependency on them and who can use them as prescribed without any negative repercussions.

However, very few people know how their genetic makeup might affect the way opioids work on them. Through the CORI, we are working to discover how knowing about our genes and the role they play in OUD might help prevent new cases of OUD or improve outcomes for those already living with this disease.