Attorney General Dave Yost seeks DNA markers underlying opioid addiction

October 3, 2019 – Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is funding a study in a bid to find genetic markers that could make people more prone to opioid addiction.

“While Ohio’s first responders and treatment and recovery experts are fighting a heroic battle to curb opioid-related fatalities, the key to victory is to stop people from becoming addicted in the first place,” Yost said Thursday.

Yost is using $1.6 million in settlement funds from various lawsuits to underwrite a pair or projects to address Ohio’s opioid addiction and death crisis, which only last year began to show signs of easing.

The genetic marker study will seek DNA cheek-swab samples from up to 1,500 emergency room patient volunteers at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Patients confidentially will be asked about factors associated with addiction and their use of opioids, with DNA testing to look for 180 genetic markers suspected of association with opioid addiction.

Scientists from Ohio State, the University of Cincinnati, Bowling Green State University and Case Western Reserve University will work with a pair of contractors to analyze the data.

Dr. Jon Sprague, director of science and research at Yost’s office, and Dr. Caroline Freiermuth of the University of Cincinnati will lead the work.

Results could reveal what steps could be taken to help prevent addiction among those susceptible to opioid abuse, Yost said.

Yost also announced the creation of a task force of medical, pharmacy and other health experts to identify and develop new addiction prevention techniques.

“We want to know why two people can take the same drug in the same dosage and only one becomes addicted,” Yost said in statement.

“Answering that question could help us get in front of this epidemic and begin to relieve the pressure on those who are working hard to save those who already are in the clutches of the opioid monster,” he said.

Ohio drug overdose deaths dropped 22% last year to 3,764 — the first decline since 2009.

By Randy Ludlow, The Columbus Dispatch
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