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Genetic Contribution Detected in Responses to Opioids

Last Updated: June 21, 2012.

The responses to opioid drugs, such as nausea, respiratory depression, and drug liking or disliking, have a significant inherited component, according to a study published in the July issue of Anesthesiology.

THURSDAY, June 21 (HealthDay News) -- The responses to opioid drugs, such as nausea, respiratory depression, and drug liking or disliking, have a significant inherited component, according to a study published in the July issue of Anesthesiology.

Martin S. Angst, M.D., from the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, and colleagues used a twin study paradigm to investigate the genetic and familial (genetic and/or shared environment) contribution to opioid response. The µ-opioid receptor agonist alfentanil and saline placebo were administered to 121 twin pairs under monitored laboratory conditions.

The researchers found that there was significant heritability noted for respiratory depression, nausea, and drug disliking (30, 59, and 36 percent, respectively). There were significant familial effects observed for sedation, pruritus, dizziness, and drug liking (29, 38, 32, and 26 percent, respectively). Covariables which were significantly associated with responses (sedation, pruritus, drug liking and disliking, and dizziness) included age, sex, race, ethnicity, education, mood, and depression.

"Genetic, environmental, and demographic factors work together to control adverse and reinforcing opioid responses, but contribute differently to specific responses," Angst and colleagues conclude.

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