Institution: The University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee
The opioid crisis has plagued the United States for the past two decades, contributing to a national health emergency. Emerging research has expanded our understanding about the genetic and neurobiological vulnerabilities contributing to opioid dependence and opioid use disorder (OUD). Furthermore, these advancements have contributed to current thinking about OUD as a chronic, relapsing neurobiological condition. The present review summarizes current understanding of how the expression and function of mu-opioid receptors (MOPR) change as a result of drug exposure and may vary based on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within an individual’s genome. While the functional consequences of MOPR differences are still being explored, emerging evidence suggests that they may contribute to individuals’ response to opioids and vulnerability to OUD. It is increasingly possible and potentially beneficial to use genetic data to design individualized interventions to achieve better clinical outcomes. Factors contributing to the efficacy and access to existing OUD treatments and healthcare-related policies, including public perception, are discussed.