Nearly one in five whites could carry a genetic variant that substantially increases their odds of being susceptible to severe cocaine abuse, a new study has found.
This genetic variant, characterized by one or both of two tiny gene mutations, alters the brain's response to specific chemical signals.
The variant was associated with a more than threefold increase in the odds that carriers will be susceptible to severe cocaine abuse leading to fatal overdosing, compared to non-carriers, according to the study led by Ohio State University researchers.
Among whites, one or both mutations were found in more than 40 percent of autopsy brain samples taken from people who had abused cocaine, compared to 19 percent of samples from people who lived drug-free.
Overall, one in five samples from whites in the control group and one in two to three samples in the cocaine overdose group contained the genetic variant, compared to one in eight African Americans, in whom the variant is less prevalent.
The research appears online and is scheduled for later print publication in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.