Published Medical Xpress

It impacts 100 million Americans, it is the number one reason that people go to see the doctor, and it is now a national crisis. The problem: chronic pain and prescription opioids. The dilemma: how to provide the most effective pain treatment for 80 percent of pain patients who are at least risk for addiction while causing the least harm to the remaining 20 percent who are at most risk. The solution: it’s very complicated, but it may be possible to address both problems without adversely affecting either.

Opioids (morphine, Oxycontin, Viocodin), which can lead to increased risk of addiction, have been the mainstay of treatment for moderate to severe pain for decades. The challenge is that their effects on patients vary tremendously. Prescription opioid-use disorder affects about 2 million Americans each year and is the number one cause of accidental death. Right now, attempts to prevent opioid use disorder focus mainly on reining in prescription practices, which is problematic.

A researcher from Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine has received a five-year, $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to help solve the “one-size-fits-all” approach to prescribing opioids for chronic pain. Because of the high heritability, finding the genetic predictors of prescription opioid use disorder is more critical than ever. Currently, little data exists on clinical characteristics and genetic variants that confer risk for opioid use disorder.