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UC Researcher Examines Genetic Role in Addiction

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After a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first patients were enrolled at UC in May and the 100th patient signed up in early September. Freiermuth has been impressed by the enthusiasm by patients in the emergency department to take part in the study.

“About 40% of patients who are approached agree to participate in this study, which is pretty impressive for any study run in the ED where we have this very chaotic environment, patients are coming and leaving their room for various tests,” she says. “They’re there because they’re in pain or they have some other complaint that they sought care for, and here we are interrupting their day asking them to participate in this research that won’t directly benefit them but has the potential to benefit others. People have jumped at the chance, it is very inspiring to watch. People have no experience with OUD but have just seen everything on the news want to participate to help people.”

Daniel Adams, 30, of Cincinnati, recently joined the study, saying he wants to help people avoid being in his position.

“I want to be involved in any type of effort that has to do with helping other people,” says Adams. “Is this a genetic thing, and if it is, is there a way to stop it at a younger age? I have an 11-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son and maybe they might end up on drugs. My dad was an alcoholic and he liked doing heroin and cocaine and I have a drinking problem and I do heroin and cocaine. I did exactly what my dad did. I believe it is genetic. My son has red hair just like me. Genetics can be passed down through looks, eyes, hair, why can’t it be passed down through actions and emotions?”

The goal is to enroll up to 1,500 patients over the next year or so. At UC, Mike Lyons, MD, associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine, and Jennifer Brown, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, will be co-investigators of the study.

“I think it’s exciting,” says Freiermuth. “It’s pretty new and novel. Nobody has done much with the genetic aspect of OUD. There has been a focus to provide treatment, both with medicated-assisted treatment and taking care of all the complications that arise from OUD, and there aren’t many people looking at preventing [it].”

Lead image/istock.

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Schedule1 Mar 2024