Leveraging genome-wide data to investigate differences between opioid use vs. opioid dependence in 41,176 individuals from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium

Mol Psychiatry. 2020 Aug;25(8):1673-1687. doi: 10.1038/s41380-020-0677-9. Epub 2020 Feb 26.


To provide insights into the biology of opioid dependence (OD) and opioid use (i.e., exposure, OE), we completed a genome-wide analysis comparing 4503 OD cases, 4173 opioid-exposed controls, and 32,500 opioid-unexposed controls, including participants of European and African descent (EUR and AFR, respectively). Among the variants identified, rs9291211 was associated with OE (exposed vs. unexposed controls; EUR z = -5.39, p = 7.2 × 10-8). This variant regulates the transcriptomic profiles of SLC30A9 and BEND4 in multiple brain tissues and was previously associated with depression, alcohol consumption, and neuroticism. A phenome-wide scan of rs9291211 in the UK Biobank (N > 360,000) found association of this variant with propensity to use dietary supplements (p = 1.68 × 10-8). With respect to the same OE phenotype in the gene-based analysis, we identified SDCCAG8 (EUR + AFR z = 4.69, p = 10-6), which was previously associated with educational attainment, risk-taking behaviors, and schizophrenia. In addition, rs201123820 showed a genome-wide significant difference between OD cases and unexposed controls (AFR z = 5.55, p = 2.9 × 10-8) and a significant association with musculoskeletal disorders in the UK Biobank (p = 4.88 × 10-7). A polygenic risk score (PRS) based on a GWAS of risk-tolerance (n = 466,571) was positively associated with OD (OD vs. unexposed controls, p = 8.1 × 10-5; OD cases vs. exposed controls, p = 0.054) and OE (exposed vs. unexposed controls, p = 3.6 × 10-5). A PRS based on a GWAS of neuroticism (n = 390,278) was positively associated with OD (OD vs. unexposed controls, p = 3.2 × 10-5; OD vs. exposed controls, p = 0.002) but not with OE (p = 0.67). Our analyses highlight the difference between dependence and exposure and the importance of considering the definition of controls in studies of addiction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology
  • Behavior, Addictive / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation / genetics*
  • Genome, Human / genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Genomics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multifactorial Inheritance / genetics
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / genetics*


  • Analgesics, Opioid

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