New research finds that a correlation between genetics and prescription drug abuse.
Why are prescription painkillers such a problem for some people while others can take them as prescribed and then easily stop? The answer may be linked to your genes. According to a new research study, genetics may play a big role in how your body responds to opiates.
We all know that these powerful pain relievers put users at a high risk for addiction and abuse, but some people are more at risk than others. For the study, researchers looked at 121 pairs of twins to determine the role of genetics in people's reactions to pain meds. What they found was eye-opening.
Researchers found that genetic predisposition accounted for 59 percent of the variation between people's levels of nausea, 36 percent of the differences in how much people disliked the drug and 38 percent of the variation in itchiness in reaction to the drug.
Why do we care how itchy a prescription painkiller makes someone? Well, these findings are important because the degree to which people experience unpleasant side effects and like or dislike the drugs can be a sign of how effectively the drugs treat their pain. This also helps researchers pinpoint the subjects’ potential to develop an addiction, since liking a drug increases the susceptibility to addiction, while experiencing negative side effects decreases it.
“Genetics matter … people are different, and if we understand why they are different, we can take better care of them,” said study author Dr. Martin Angst, professor of anesthesia at the Stanford University Medical Center.
This is particularly important because nearly 2 million people in the US are currently addicted to prescription painkillers, according to a 2009 government survey, and the problem is growing. Crackdowns on prescription medications help some, but they simply push others to find other, more cost-effective versions of opiates – usually heroin.
There is hope, though. Researchers like those involved in this study believe the addiction problem could be curbed if people's reactions to the drugs were better understood or could be predicted. This type of research could also result in a more personalized approach to administering the medications, the researchers said. Someday, people could be screened prior to use so doctors could understand their predispositions and respond appropriately.
The study was recently published in the journal Anesthesiology.
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