Neuropharmacological and Neurogenetic Correlates of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) As a Function of Ethnicity: Relevance to Precision Addiction Medicine

Curr Neuropharmacol. 2020;18(7):578-595. doi: 10.2174/1570159X17666191118125702.


Background: Over 100 people die daily from opioid overdose and $78.5B per year is spent on treatment efforts, however, the real societal cost is multifold greater. Alternative strategies to eradicate/manage drug misuse and addiction need consideration. The perception of opioid addiction as a social/criminal problem has evolved to evidence-based considerations of them as clinical disorders with a genetic basis. We present evaluations of the genetics of addiction with ancestryspecific risk profiles for consideration.

Objective: Studies of gene variants associated with predisposition to substance use disorders (SUDs) are monolithic, and exclude many ethnic groups, especially Hispanics and African Americans. We evaluate gene polymorphisms that impact brain reward and predispose individuals to opioid addictions, with a focus on the disparity of research which includes individuals of African and Hispanic descent.

Methodology: PubMed and Google Scholar were searched for: Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), Genome- wide association studies (GWAS); genetic variants; polymorphisms, restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLP); genomics, epigenetics, race, ethnic group, ethnicity, ancestry, Caucasian/ White, African American/Black, Hispanic, Asian, addictive behaviors, reward deficiency syndrome (RDS), mutation, insertion/deletion, and promotor region.

Results: Many studies exclude non-White individuals. Studies that include diverse populations report ethnicity-specific frequencies of risk genes, with certain polymorphisms specifically associated with Caucasian and not African-American or Hispanic susceptibility to OUD or SUDs, and vice versa.

Conclusion: To adapt precision medicine-based addiction management in a blended society, we propose that ethnicity/ancestry-informed genetic variations must be analyzed to provide real precision- guided therapeutics with the intent to attenuate this uncontrollable fatal epidemic.

Keywords: Dopamine homeostasis; Precision Addiction Management (PAM); Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS); ethnic groups; gene guided therapy; genetics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Addiction Medicine
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / genetics
  • Black or African American / genetics
  • Ethnicity / genetics*
  • Genotype
  • Hispanic or Latino / genetics
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Precision Medicine