Date on Honors Thesis

Spring 5-11-2023


Biology Pre-Pharmacy



Examining Committee Member

Gary ZeRuth, PhD, Advisor

Examining Committee Member

Christopher Lennon, PhD, Committee Member

Examining Committee Member

Dena Weinberger, PhD, Committee Member


The opioid epidemic is an issue within the pharmaceutical industry in the United States of America due to prescription and non-prescription substances being made available to the population. Opioids include chemical substances that affect the body and brain through opioid receptors, including the mu, kappa, and delta receptors. These substances are derived and synthesized from the poppy plant. Multiple causes have been linked to opioid abuse disorder, including but not limited to employment, income, housing, nutrition, mental health disorders, and genetics. By gathering information from previous literature, genetics may be the main cause of narcotic analgesic tolerance and abuse. Specific polymorphisms and differences in the DNA within individual genomes increase the chances of developing an opioid substance abuse disorder. Several polymorphisms stand out, including the A118G polymorphism in the OPRM1 gene, located within the mu opioid receptor, the CYP2D6 gene deletion or point mutations within the 2D6 gene locus, -141delC and TaqI A1 polymorphism of the DRD2 gene, and the exon III VNTR polymorphism of the DRD4 gene. These variations within the human genome increase or decrease an individual’s chances of an opioid substance use disorder, along with the success or failure of pharmacotherapy treatments including methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine. In conclusion, genetics are suggested to play a significant role in the tolerance and abuse of opioid substances, even though further research needs to be conducted on the subject on a larger scale.