How Personalized Medicine Could Be Used to Treat Addiction

Prescription drugs are notorious for their rate of failure. It’s been said that 90% of medicines will work as intended for a mere 30 to 50% of patients. The result? Millions of people don’t get the quality of care they need, and the health care system wastes staggering amounts of money.

For people with addiction, this problem is particularly damaging, especially since there are so few drugs available that treat addiction.

“[Doctors] seem to just try one drug or another with no particular preference,” Dr. Thomas Kosten of Baylor College of Medicine explained. “Yes, they change dose, but do not have good data to support such changes.”

However, the growing field of personalized medicine could soon change all that. According to a July 15 Pacific Standard article, Kosten, one of the country’s leading addiction researchers, is currently delving into pharmacogenetics — the study of how an individual’s genes and gene mutations may influence a drug’s effectiveness.

By personalizing addiction treatment drugs to each individual patient — and to the patient’s genes — doctors can provide more effective and less expensive care. Researching which genetic factors make a treatment more or less effective can help doctors target their treatments much more accurately.

With alternative addiction treatments like ibogaine therapy currently prohibited in the U.S., personalizing the medicines we use to treat addiction could be a life-saver for those who can’t afford to travel abroad for treatment.

“With even the most basic genetic testing on patients we have seen an across-the-board improvement in treatment outcomes,” says Arnold Hesnod, Clinical Outreach, Clear Sky Recovery.

The possibilities that personalized medicine brings to the world of addiction treatment are hard to ignore, especially when heroin addiction, in particular, has made a recent resurgence in the U.S.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released data that reveals the frequency of heroin use between 2011 and 2013 was 63% higher than that of 2002 through 2004.

Additionally, heroin dependence rose a stuning 90% between 2002 and 2013, with 8,257 people dying of heroin overdose in 2013 alone, reported.

Given these grim statistics, it’s possible that personalized medicine could be the answer to reducing addiction in America.

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