Why You (and Your Doctor) Should #KnowYourRisk for Opioid Addiction

by | Oct 7, 2021

Opioids are effective at managing moderate to severe pain and are often prescribed following surgery or injury—but they come with a risk of addiction. While everyone who takes prescription opioids is at risk for addiction, that risk is higher for some people than others.

Because treating acute pain (pain lasting less than 30 days) safely and effectively is a priority for both you and your provider, it’s important to understand your personal risk for addiction before oral opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone are ever prescribed.

A Gateway to Addiction

While there are many entry points for opioid abuse and addiction, prescription opioids continue to play a significant role, with nearly 80% of heroin users reporting that they first misused prescription opioids prior to heroin.1

Surgical care is one gateway to addiction: An estimated 67 million opioid prescriptions are written each year in the U.S. by surgically-focused specialties,2 potentially leading to as many as 7 million additional Americans misusing or becoming addicted to opioids annually.3

Even short-term opioid use can lead to addiction and, too often, overdose. Research has shown that your odds of still taking opioids a year after starting a short course increases after only five days of taking them.4 Another study found that each year, 6% of patients prescribed oral opioids for post-surgical pain were still taking opioids three to six months after surgery.5

And the consequences of opioid addiction are dire: In 2020, more than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses—the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded—and almost 75% of these deaths were opioid-related.6

Risk Factors for Opioid Use Disorder

There are many known factors associated with increased risk for opioid addiction (also called Opioid Use Disorder, or OUD). They include psychological factors, such as childhood trauma or mental health conditions like anxiety or depression; environmental factors, such as growing up or living in high-stress environments; and biological factors, such as family or personal history of substance abuse.7

To account for these factors, your physician will review your medical history, conduct a complete clinical evaluation, and may have you complete a risk questionnaire. It’s important to be as honest and thorough as you can when providing information to your doctor.

Another key factor is your genetics, which research has shown can account for up to 70% of overall risk.8 However, until recently, physicians and their patients didn’t have an objective way to assess genetic risk for OUD. But thanks to recent scientific advances, genetic risk assessment is now available.

Designed for More Informed Decisions

AvertD is a clinically validated test that identifies an individual’s genetic risk for developing OUD. The test requires only a simple cheek swab sample and analyzes 15 genetic markers involved in the brain reward pathways associated with addiction to identify if a patient is at high or low risk for OUD.

When use of prescription oral opioids for acute pain is being considered, AvertD offers an objective way to identify who may be at increased genetic risk for opioid addiction—so you and your provider can make more informed clinical decisions about how to manage your pain safely and effectively.

Because genetics are only one factor in understanding the risk of developing OUD from using oral opioids, AvertD test results should always be used in conjunction with a complete clinical evaluation to determine the appropriateness of oral opioids for pain management.

Want to #KnowYourRisk? Learn more at https://avertdtest.com/


1Opioid Overdose Crisis. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Available online at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

2Stark N, Kerr S, Stevens J. Prevalence and predictors of persistent post-surgical opioid use: a prospective observational cohort study. Anaesth Intensive Care. 2017;45(6):700-706. doi:10.1177/0310057X1704500609

3Guy G, Zhang K. Opioid prescribing by specialty and volume in the US. Am J Prev Med. 2018; 55(5):e153-e155

4How opioid addiction occurs. Mayo Clinic. Available online at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prescription-drug-abuse/in-depth/how-opioid-addiction-occurs/art-20360372

5Brummett, et al. New Persistent Opioid Use After Minor and Major Surgical Procedures in US Adults. JAMA Surg. 2017;152(6):e170504. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2017.0504.

6Ahmad FB, Rossen LM, Sutton P. Provisional drug overdose death counts. National Center for Health Statistics. 2021. Accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/drug-overdose-data.htm on July 26, 2021.

7St Marie B. Assessing Patients’ Risk for Opioid Use Disorder. AACN Adv Crit Care. 2019;30(4):343-352. doi:10.4037/aacnacc2019931

8Bevilacqua L, Goldman D. Genes and addictions. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2009; 85(4):359–361. doi:10.1038/clpt.2009.6

Janelle Drumwright

Janelle Drumwright, Director of Marketing

Janelle has worked in biotech and medical device marketing for 13 years. She has experience across a number of medical specialties including cardiology, cardiac surgery, genetics, medical imaging, diagnostics, and rheumatology. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arizona and a certificate of professional achievement in narrative medicine from Columbia University.


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