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In 2014 nearly two million Americans were addicted to opioids. The CDC estimated that in 2010 one hundred Americans per day died of opioid overdose. With opioids accounting for the majority of overdose deaths in the U.S., genetic predisposition should be a consideration. Starting with demographics we can get a picture of who is most at risk to misuse opioids. It has been reported that adults older than forty are mostly likely to use prescription opioids. Women are more likely to use prescription opioids than men. While there is no real difference between non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks opioid use, there is an increased occurrence of opioid use with non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics (Donaldson, Demers, Taylor, Lopez, & Chang, 2017)
The opioid pandemic has mostly been depicted as a problem among white American’s, however, death rates from opioids have been on the rise in the Africa American community. They had the greatest increase in opioid related death rates with 0.1 in 1999 to 36.0 in 2018. African Americans are also more likely to have prejudice against them regardless of past drug use when being treated for pain (Stevens, 2020).
Genetic predisposition studies are on the rise for opioid abuse. A recent study obtained buccal swabs from participates and used to test for genetic links those with opioid addiction and SNPs that are associated with the brains reward center. This information can be useful in helping providers now who would be at increased risk to develop and opioid addiction (Donaldson, Demers, Taylor, Lopez, & Chang, 2017).
Resources that should be made available in the clinic setting is access to genetic testing that provides a risk assessment of those who are at increased of becoming addicted to medications. This tool could give providers a clear picture on the likelihood of abuse. It would give them the opportunity to provide other options to pain management.
A shift in viewing addictions as a moral flaw to disease could lead the way for cultural change. Addicts often find themselves with minimal support systems as rehab facilities are unable to keep up with growing cost and lack of government funding. One Oklahoma behavioral health director made the valid point that we as health care providers would never suggest that a diabetes patient wait to seek treatment until they are in a coma, yet that is essentially how addicts are being treated. (Beaman & Hawkins, 2017).
In conclusion, the opioid pandemic is on the rise and with its growth it is affecting a more culturally diverse group than seen in the past. It does not seem to spare gender either. While there are genetic tests out there than can indicate a precursor to addictions. They are not readily available in the clinic setting. We as a medical community need to keep bias in check to ensure that we are giving our patients the best care. Providing education prior to staring opioid medications so that patients and providers can make informed decisions on the risk of addiction.
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