In America, 75 percent of heroin addicts got their start with a prescription opiate. Opioids are the primary cause of overdose deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine there were, “20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015.”
Path to addiction
In the July 2014 issue of JAMA Psychiatry, Dr. T.J. Cicero describes a significant change in the path that opiate-abusers take on their way to addiction. In the 1960s most heroin addicts began their addiction by using heroin, while presently 75 percent of future heroin addicts get their start with a prescription. Abusers obtain their prescription opiates from a physician, a friend or a street contact. Addicts shift from prescription drugs to heroin or fentanyl because the heroin/fentanyl high is more intense, the street drugs are easier to obtain, and they are significantly less expensive.
Current medication prescribing methods involve a process of trial and error, as doctors are not certain which pharmaceutical treatment a patient may respond to, often resulting in delayed recovery, increased costs and negative reactions with other drugs.
Testing to predict
ChromoCare, based in Columbus, Ohio, completes genetic testing prior to opioids being prescribed. Establishing a significant role in coping with prescription compatibility, techniques have been developed which combat heroin/fentanyl and trial and error medication problems.
ChromoCare’s ChromALERT addiction risk score is based on analysis of specific genes in an individual. Analysis of a cheek swab sample from a patient can aid in determining the risk that patient has of becoming addicted to opiate-based painkillers. If it is determined that the patient has a high risk of becoming addicted, an alternative painkiller can be prescribed, exposing fewer patients to the risk of opiate addiction.
G.A.P Testing (genetic assisted prescribing) is used to determine the appropriate pharmaceutical drug and dose to best meet the needs of patients across a number of medical conditions. Using the G.A.P test greatly reduces the need for trial/error prescribing and its negative potential outcomes.
The G.A.P Test allows physicians to identify a patient who will receive pain relief from opiates. Some individuals (less than 20 percent) do not receive effective pain relief from opiates due to their genetics. If an opiate cannot be processed properly by the body to allow the pain-killing properties of the drug to function, alternative non-opiate medications can be used. Careful and directed prescribing decreases the risk of addiction.