COLUMBUS, Ohio – A doctor faces an impossible choice every time she must decide whether to give an emergency room patient a painkiller.
"I'm faced with this battle. How do I decide how much pain medication to give someone?" asked Caroline Freiermuth of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Freiermuth wants to treat their pain. She doesn't want them to suffer or purchase illicit opioids or heroin on the street. But she doesn't want to contribute to opioid addiction.
She's largely left on her own to make that decision. There are a few tools or guidelines she can use to guide her path.
What if there was a genetic test that could determine whether certain people were more likely to develop opioid use disorder?
That's the goal of a year-plus study that the University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University will launch in January 2020 – the most comprehensive look into how our genetic makeup might affect addiction.
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The $1.6 million studies will recruit up to 1,500 emergency department patients – some diagnosed with opioid use disorder and others with little experience with opioids – swab their cheeks and send the genetic information to Michigan-based Genemarkers for testing.
Patients' DNA won't be linked to their names and won't be used by police – a potential concern if patients are treated for overdoses.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost's office oversees the project, hoping to use science to inform opioid addiction prevention. That could ease the burden on police and addiction counselors who have become the front lines of Ohio's opioid crisis.