Ohio Attorney Gen. Yost announces milestone in opioid study

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Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Thursday that one of the hospitals involved in a study that identifies whether genetics plays a role in opioid addiction had reached a milestone enrollment number.

Yost’s Scientific Committee on Opioid Prevention and Education began work on the study last year with the recruitment of patients at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center (UCMC) and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (OSUWMC). Yost said that UCMC had reached an initial milestone of 100 patients enrolled in the study. Both medical centers began enrolling patients this summer.

“An awful lot of the people who got addicted to opioids didn’t get that way on their own,” said Yost. “They weren’t trying to use opioids as a party drug. They went to their doctor and were given a prescription following a surgery or injury.”

The study’s leaders discussed the project and its processes in a 13-minute online presentation. Drs. Jon Sprague and Carolina Freiermuth said their initial observations show a high participation rate among emergency room patients randomly approached and asked to participate.

“People truly want to help prevent others from going down the pathway of opioid addiction,” said Sprague.

Yost said SCOPE’s genetic research team will enroll up to 1,500 participants over the next year before analyzing participants’ genetic and environmental data. Patients recruited from emergency departments answer survey questions about their environment and then submit DNA via a cheek swab. Researchers will be looking for the presence of 180 genetic markers suspected to be associate with opioid addiction. Genetic samples of those with opioid addiction will then be compared to those without opioid addiction to determine if there are genetic markers associated with opioid use disorder.

“Why is it that two people can take the same drug in the same dosage and only one becomes addicted?” said Yost. “We think genetics will help us understand why, and we want to get that powerful information into the hands of physicians to help stop opioid addiction before it starts,” he added.

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