At a time when opioid crisis is wreaking havoc on the United States, a team of researchers in Massachusetts are on the verge of developing a revolutionary non-addictive painkiller. Called the Blue-181, the painkiller developed by Blue Therapeutics is 50 times more potent than morphine and does not carry any risk of dependence or addiction even when used for longer periods, the researchers said.
“It targets receptors in the spinal cord, where you are able to reduce the perception of pain, without targeting the areas of the brain which leads to the addiction side effects,” said Ajay Yekkirala, co-founder and chief scientific officer of the Blue Therapeutics.
Blue-181 is designed to target receptors in the spinal cord without targeting parts of the brain responsible for causing side effects. According to the researchers, clinging to these different receptors will reduce the perception of pain without any risk of experiencing narcotic high, abuse, and dependence. Hence, the introduction of the drug is anticipated to not only change the face of pain management but also put a stop to the rampant opioid use.
The research has received a funding of more than $2 million from the National Institutes for Health and the Department of Defense. Currently, the drug is undergoing clinical trials and it may take at least five years for it to hit the market. Also, the drug is yet to be observed for its long-term effects.
Opioids are effective in overcoming severe and chronic pain. However, along with relief, a user is likely to get dependent and addicted to the drug. Also, due to its sedative potential, many users abuse opioids to experience a sense of euphoria or to get high. In 2016, there were reportedly 11.5 million people aged 12 or older in the U.S. who misused prescription pain relievers in the past year.
Hence, developing an alternative that is as effective as an opioid sans its addictive nature could really help in fighting the burgeoning opioid crisis. At present, plenty of research are being conducted to develop a suitable alternative to opioids. For instance, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and collaborators have created a new drug-like compound after understanding the structure of the activated kappa opioid receptor bound to a morphine derivative. The new drug-compound will activate only the selected receptor, thereby eliminating the risk of a wide range of side effects that occur in case of opioids.
Similarly, researchers from the Indiana University also identified the use of a compound called positive allosteric modulators (PAM) in enhancing the effect of pain-relief chemicals naturally produced by the body in response to a stress or injury. Since the effect of the compound was highly targeted in the brain, it did not cause any unwanted side effects like impaired motor functions.
Opioid addiction doesn’t happen overnight and is often gradual and hidden. In majority of the cases, the condition is recognized when the user experiences symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal. Under such circumstances, the user should immediately call the 24-hour drug helpline to seek clinical support.
Opioid addiction like any other addiction can be treated with proper medical intervention. If you or your loved one is suffering from opioid addiction or experiencing the symptoms, feel free to get in touch with 24/7 Recovery Helpline for immediate drug rehab help. Call at our 24/7 helpline number (855) 441-4405 or chat online with a specialist to know more about our treatment options and centers.