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Tests help determine genetic predisposition to opioid addiction

NBC News Channel
September 27, 2017 05:35 PM

(NBC News) -- Could personalized medicine become a critical weapon in the fight against the opioid crisis? A genetic test may help identify who might be predisposed to become hooked on opioids.

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The idea of whether genetics play a role in addiction isn't anything new.

"In fact, the genetics and addiction correlation go back to at least the 1960s if not older," said Dr. Keri Donaldson, medical director and CEO at Prescient Medicine.

However, using these studies to create a predictive score or a higher risk of addiction based on their genetic makeup is new.

"That predictive score then can be used to with some advanced technologies develop or distinguish in between patients that have a lower genetic risk of developing dependency to particular agents," Donaldson said.

To create this new study, Donaldson said clinicians looked at two patient populations -- Patients that had an addiction and were currently seeking treatment for opioid dependency or disorders. Those that did not and tested negative went through the vast range of genetics to develop that predictive score.

"That would give clinicians or providers or patients frankly an ability to talk about their individualized genetic risk of developing dependency," Donaldson said.

The test uses new automated intelligence and machine learning techniques to regress genes for accuracy. With over 59,000 opioid-related drug overdoses in 2016, Donaldson said this test is could be pivotal.

"This tool will allow physicians or providers to assess that baseline risk and change hopefully the paradigm that unfortunately is currently spiraling out of control," she said.

According to the CDC, Lincoln County had the highest rate of opioid prescriptions in our entire state last year. New Mexico actually sits about average for opioid prescriptions, not the best but not the worst.

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