Researchers have found four common risk factors among study participants addicted to opioid painkillers, and found evidence that genes could play a part in the addiction, Medical News Today reported Aug. 28. 

Investigators from Geisinger Health System interviewed 705 patients suffering from chronic pain who had been prescribed opioid painkillers for over 90 days, and examined their DNA. Researchers found that patients 65 years old or younger, using psychiatric medications, or with histories of drug abuse or depression were more likely to be addicted to the painkillers. Over one in four participants who were currently addicted had all four risk factors.

“By assessing patients in chronic pain for these risk factors before prescribing painkillers, doctors will be better able to treat their patients' pain without the potential for future drug addiction,” said Joseph Boscarino, Ph.D., an epidemiologist and senior investigator at Geisinger's Center for Health Research.

The study also looked at chromosome 15 where a gene had previously been linked to dependency on alcohol, nicotine, and cocaine. Researchers found evidence suggesting that genetic mutations on the same chromosome may be linked to opioid addiction.

The findings were published online in the journal Addiction.