Background: The heritability of opioid use disorder has been widely investigated; however, the influence of specific genes on methadone treatment outcomes is not well understood. The association between response to methadone treatment and genes that are involved in substance use behaviors and reward mechanisms is poorly understood, despite evidence suggesting their contribution to opioid use disorder. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and dopamine receptor D2 (DRD2) polymorphisms on continued opioid use among patients on methadone treatment for opioid use disorder.
Methods: BDNF 196G>A (rs6265) and DRD2-241A>G (rs1799978) genetic variants were examined in patients with opioid use disorder who were recruited from methadone treatment clinics across Southern Ontario, Canada. We collected demographic information, substance use history, blood for genetic analysis, and urine to measure opioid use. We used regression analysis to examine the association between continued opioid use and genetic variants, adjusting for age, sex, ethnicity, methadone dose, duration in treatment, and number of urine screens.
Results: Among 240 patients treated with methadone for opioid use disorder, 36.3 percent (n = 87) and 11.3 percent (n = 27) had at least one risk allele for rs6265 and rs1799978, respectively. These genetic variants were not significantly associated with continued opioid use while on methadone maintenance treatment [rs6265: odds ratio (OR) = 1.37, 95 % confidence interval (CI) = 0.792, 2.371, p = 0.264; rs1799978: OR 1.27, 95 % CI 0.511, 3.182, p = 0.603].
Conclusions: Despite an association of BDNF rs6265 and DRD2 rs1799978 with addictive behaviors, these variants were not associated with continued illicit opioid use in patients treated with methadone. Problematic use of opioids throughout treatment with methadone may be attributed to nongenetic factors or a polygenic effect requiring further exploration. Additional research should focus on investigating these findings in larger samples and different populations.