Genes Play a Large Role in Opioid Dependence

dna“There is reason to think that opioid dependence is at least 60 percent inherited. Now a genomewide association study appears to have led to the identification of major genes contributing to this risk.

Some major genes that contribute to the risk for opioid dependence appear to have been identified. The genes make proteins that influence calcium signaling or potassium signaling within neurons.

The lead scientist, Joel Gelernter, M.D., a professor of psychiatry, genetics, and neurobiology at Yale University, told Psychiatric News that he was surprised by this finding. He had expected genes that code for opioid receptors to turn out to be major contributors, he said. But that was not the case.

Gelernter and his coworkers conducted a genomewide association study to see whether they could significantly link any gene variants with a risk for opioid dependence. They used a relatively large sample—some 5,700 subjects (over a third with opioid dependence and the rest controls). Afterward they conducted two more studies—one with some 4,000 subjects and the other with some 2,500 ones—to see whether they could replicate their initial findings.

They were able to link variants of a number of genes with a risk for opioid dependence. But the variants that were most strongly associated with opioid dependence risk were those from genes involved in calcium or potassium signaling within neurons.”

Source: – January 28, 2014