Roughly 40 to 60 percent of a person’s “vulnerability to addiction” is related to genetic factors, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Yet genes responsible for opioid dependence have been difficult to identify, since the disorder “stems from a complex combination of genetic alterations and environmental influences, such as drug availability,” noted Dr. John Krystal, chair of Yale’s Department of Psychiatry and editor of Biological Psychiatry, in a recent statement.
Scientists conducted a genome-wide analysis of more than 5,000 Americans exposed to opioids to determine the differences in those who developed opioid dependence and those who did not. The results: A variant on chromosome 15, near the RGMA gene, was found in European- and African-Americans with opioid dependency. The association was nearly “five orders of magnitude stronger” in those with European ancestry, according to researchers. Previous studies have linked RGMA to other mental disorders, including schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and autism.
It still remains unclear how exactly RGMA impacts addiction risks, but researchers are continuing to gather clues via studies on mice. What we do know is that the RGMA gene originates a signal that tells nerve fibers where they need to go and changes to these molecules could disrupt the brain’s circuits. In turn, this could predispose someone to neurological and psychiatric diseases, noted CNN.com.
While there’s still a long way to go, study authors are hoping that this research eventually leads to the development of treatment. “We could imagine that there’s some possibility that research in RGMa [the mouse gene related to human RGMA] and pharmaceuticals could act on or around RGMa signaling,” Dr. Joel Gelernter, Yale’s Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry, professor of genetics and of neuroscience, said in a statement. “It could potentially have a role in treating opioid dependence.”
Finding Treatment at Family Recovery Services
If you are actively abusing opioids, or have a loved one caught in the grips of an opioid use disorder, we encourage you to reach out to us at Family Recovery Specialists for a confidential consultation or evaluation. The longer treatment is delayed, the greater the risk of a fatal overdose. To learn more about our intervention and therapeutic consulting services, call us today: 305-595-7378.