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Many Cocaine Deaths Determined by Genes, Study Says

Last Updated: January 30, 2013.

Common mutations in white people greatly increase risk of dying from the drug, researchers contend.

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- People with common mutations on two genes have a nearly eightfold increased risk of dying from cocaine abuse, according to a new study.

The mutations affect how dopamine affects brain activity. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that's vital to the function of the central nervous system. Cocaine is known to block transporters in the brain from absorbing dopamine, the Ohio State University researchers said.

The findings, published online in the January issue of the journal Translational Psychiatry, apply primarily to white people. The study authors found that about one in three whites who died of cocaine abuse had these gene mutations.

A different combination of gene mutations affects the risk of cocaine-abuse death in black people, the researchers said in a university news release.

The mutations associated with the increased risk of cocaine-abuse death in whites were found on genes that are also targeted by drugs to treat some psychiatric disorders.

These findings could help determine how patients with dopamine-related conditions, which include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety and schizophrenia, will respond to certain medications based on whether they have the mutations, the researchers said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about cocaine.

SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, Jan. 22, 2013

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