CoastLine: Genetic Mutations Could Contribute to Opioid Dependency

Aug 9, 2018

It’s not news that the Cape Fear region suffers from some of the highest numbers per capita of people addicted to heroin and opioids.  In response to what’s now commonly “the opioid crisis”, law enforcement strategies have changed, with officers carrying the anti-overdose drug Naloxone and authorities looking to put more offenders into treatment instead of jail. 

At least one North Carolina advocacy group, NC Harm Reduction, passes out clean needles, doses of naloxone, and information to people with addictions with no judgment and no requirements.  Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo convened a Legislative Task Force two years ago to address the problem.   Just last week, local leaders announced the Cape Fear Opiate Overdose Quick Response Team.  This brings Coastal Horizons, a local resource and counseling center, together with first responders.  If the pilot program is successful, it could be replicated in other cities. 

But today, we’re coming at the opioid crisis from a slightly different perspective. 

Earlier this year, North Carolina researchers published a paper in the Journal of Addictions and Therapies that shows one genetic marker, methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase – or MTHFR – present in 90% of patients who struggle with opioid dependency.  The same researchers theorize improvement in patients with other neuropsychiatric diseases, such as depression or dementia, through a specific cluster of B vitamins, could show promise for patients suffering from opioid addiction.


Dr. Andrew Farah, Chief of Psychiatry at the High Point Division of the University of North Carolina Health Care System; Author, Hemingway's Brain

Editor's note:  Dr. Farah's contention that use of marijuana can be harmful generated some controversy during the program.  Below is a link to his paper, Cannabis Induced Psychopathology, published in March 2017:

Dr. Farah's study, The Prevalence and Role of MTHFR Polymorphisms in Opiate Dependencies, discussed on CoastLine is here.