For many years, opioid analgesics have been considered the gold standard as treatment for chronic or severe pain. Unfortunately, their use often comes at a terrible price. This is because they are the primary culprits in the prescription drug addiction crisis that is currently affecting all parts of the country and killing thousands through overdose and other negative outcomes of excessive use. For instance, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, indicate that in 2014 alone, over 45,000 Americans died from opioid overdose.
Fortunately, researchers now say they are closing in on the development of medications that have the ability to relieve chronic, severe pain without resulting in the patient becoming addicted. This also raises hope among individuals who are currently using such drugs as pain treatment and have subsequently become addicted. Some claim that these new medicines are as strong as morphine, but far less likely to result in dependency.
Researchers at the Tulane University School of Medicine in Louisiana are conducting in-depth studies to determine whether or not a medication can be developed to relieve pain without the negative side effects associated with opioid analgesics and narcotics.
The focus of these tests were on engineered analogs of endormorphins, the latter of which are natural chemicals produced within the body that influence numerous mental and physical functions. For many years, pharmaceutical researchers have believed that endormorphins are likely the key to developing various medications to treat chronic or severe pain and even diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The tests, conducted on laboratory rats, involved the use of medications developed to target the mu opioid receptor, which is the same receptor targeted by substances such as morphine. The new endomorphin medications offered lengthy pain relief without the impaired motor coordination and slowed breathing that are almost always associated with narcotic painkillers.
The endomorphin approach also produced far less tolerance than that seen with narcotics and the laboratory rats did not seek an intake increase of the new drug as they did when narcotics such as morphine were made available.
University Research Results
Further studies completed at the University of Colorado and the University of Adelaide have isolated a particular drug called positive-negative Naloxone. Lead author of the study, Dr. Linda Watkins, referred to the drug as a “game changer” in the war against narcotic addiction. It is similar to the drug Naloxone, which is used to treat narcotic overdoses.
Watkins discovered that when positive-negative Naloxone is used in conjunction with opioid analgesics, pain is alleviated at a quicker rate, but the elements leading to tolerance were essentially blocked. This was accomplished by activating something called glial cells, which were formally overlooked during the development of painkillers.
Of course, further research is necessary before definitive conclusions are made. Should the trials have positive results, however, such drugs may prevent countless addictions and perhaps even curb the overuse of painkillers across the country. Anyone who believes he or she is suffering from opioid addiction should seek treatment without delay.