What if a genetic test could tell you whether you could become addicted to opioids?

Cincinnati Enquirer | Jessie Balmert

University of Cincinnati Medical Center’s Dr. Caroline Freiermuth faces an impossible choice every time she must decide whether to give an emergency room patient a painkiller. 

“I’m faced with this battle. How do I decide how much pain medication to give someone?” Freiermuth asked.

Freiermuth wants to treat their pain. She doesn’t want them to suffer or purchase illicit opioids or heroin on the street. But at the same time, she doesn’t want to contribute to their future opioid addiction.

She’s largely left on her own to make that decision. There are few tools or guidelines she can use to guide her path.

But what if there was a genetic test that could determine whether certain people were more likely to develop opioid use disorder?

That’s the goal of a year-plus study that the University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University are launching in January 2020 – the most comprehensive look to date into how our genetic makeup might affect our future addiction…

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office is overseeing the project, hoping to use science to inform opioid addiction prevention. That could ease the burden on police and addiction counselors who have become the front lines of Ohio’s opioid crisis. 

Fatal overdoses declined in 2018 for the first year since the opioid epidemic started, according to early data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But more than 4,000 people in Ohio still died of drug overdoses that year. 

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