Does Blood Type Influence Risk for Opioid Addiction?

An intriguing article in the latest edition of The American Journal on Addictions, (Vol. 20 (6) pp 581 – 584) describes the results of a study that showed one blood type was significantly associated with opioid addiction.

This study took place in Iran, and looked at 249 opioid addicts referred for treatment of their addiction. They were compared to 360 control subjects, matched for age, sex, marital status, employment status, and educational levels. Then the two groups underwent blood typing and the results compared:

In the addicts, 25% were blood type A, 22% type B, 23% type AB, and 30% type O.

In the controls, 27% were type A, 30% were type B, 7% type AB, and 36% type O.

The group of opioid addicts was significantly more likely to have group AB blood type than the matched controls. They were further typed into positive and negative Rh factors, and the opioid addicts were significantly more likely to be Rh negative than the matched controls.

These results only indicate that there is an association between blood type AB and opioid addiction, not that blood type AB causes addiction.

There is precedent for this intriguing finding. Other studies show that people with certain blood types are at increased or decreased risk for other diseases. For example, in the U.S., people with blood type O have reduced risk of both squamous cell and basal cell cancer, and are also at decreased risk for pancreatic cancer. Gastric cancer is more common in blood type A individuals.

What does this mean in the bigger picture? It adds support to other studies that indicate the risk of addiction is affected by genetic makeup. Past studies have shown that about half of the risk of developing addiction is determined by genetics (meaning the other half is determined by environmental and personal factors). I’d like to think this will help to further dispel some of the judgmentalism surround addiction, since it’s just as much genetically determined as other chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension.

At a more practical level, I believe as we learn more about human genetics, we’ll be able to tell a given patient which diseases he’s at risk for developing, and possibly even take measures to prevent disease.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dbc92912 on October 29, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    as you recognized yourself:
    “These results only indicate that there is an association between blood type AB and opioid addiction, not that blood type AB causes addiction.”
    – I am glad you stated that, as many people do not, causing such confusion.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Jason on October 31, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Interesting article. Type O here!
    Sorry to go off topic, Dr. Jana, but did you see the documentary on Ibogaine?
    There was 1 guy that was heavily addicted to heroin and they followed him on a trip to a Ibogaine clinic in Mexico. On the way there he ran out of heroin and was in withdrawal when he arrived at the clinic..He took 3 Ibogaine pills from the Dr. and after 24hrs of a hallucinating and 1 day of sleep, all withdrawal symptoms were gone. He said he felt good, no symptoms of withdrawal and had energy. He was clean for weeks, but relapsed because he did not have follow up care in place. There were several people that were interviewed and each were able to kick their opiates. To me, the withdrawal is the scariest and worst part of stopping Suboxone, and if I could get past that with 3 pills, it would be a miracle. I wanted to know your thoughts on Ibogaine and if you have heard similar stories. Thank you!

    Reply

    • No, I didn’t see that documentary, but please see my Ibogaine post on Feb. 26, 2010, and the good comments that were written by readers. If ibogaine worked, it would be a miracle. But the problem at present is that all we have are anecdotal “cures” like what you’ve described. What we really need is a well-designed large study of ibogaine with a placebo control.

      Reply

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