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Looking for secrets to drug addiction in our blood
Date:9/17/2010

RICHLAND, Wash. -- A new collaboration between the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Air Force's 59th Medical Wing hopes to improve on drug tests for illicit drug use and abuse. Not only are the researchers looking for a better indicator of current or past use, but they'd like to be able to identify people prone to abusing drugs in the first place.

Funded by the Department of Defense, the $850,000 two-year study will lay the foundation for future work to determine who might be susceptible to hydrocodone. Initially, the collaboration will map out drug breakdown products, proteins and other compounds that healthy bodies make in response to the prescription painkiller hydrocodone.

"We want to enhance the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of drug addiction. Our military deserves the best care we can give them," said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Vikhyat Bebarta, a research physician in the 59th Medical Wing at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas. Bebarta will be co-leading the study with biochemist Josh Adkins of PNNL.

The results will likely extend beyond the military. "Any tools for drug addiction that come out of this study could also be used by the general public," said Adkins.

Just as some genes confer a susceptibility to alcoholism, the team hopes to find some indicator of susceptibility to dependence on painkillers such as hydrocodone. Instead of a gene, though, the researchers hope to find a difference in how a susceptible person responds to the drug, compared to a nonsusceptible one. If such an indicator exists in blood, urine or saliva, not only would it improve our understanding of the biological response to hydrocodone, but tests that reveal the indicator could be developed.

Dependency tendency

The painkiller hydrocodone is one of the most abused drugs in the U.S. Its use, abuse and addictive potential pose special concern for the armed forces, whose members
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Contact: Mary Beckman
mary.beckman@pnl.gov
509-375-3688
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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