Addiction-Free Pain Management On The Horizon
February 9, 2018
Owing to the opioid addiction epidemic, pain management of the future could look like something out of a science fiction film. The goal: provide patients effective pain relief without the inherent risks found in opioids, i.e., addiction and overdose. A horrific number of people have died as a result of their desire for freedom from pain. In many cases, individuals with no history of addiction lost their life due to opioid toxicity.
An even more profound number of Americans are living in the grips of opioid use disorder resulting from how doctors treat pain. The irony is that when physicians prescribe painkillers responsibly, to people with low risk of addiction, one could consider such drugs miraculous. It’s worth noting that the majority of people who’ve ever taken drugs like OxyContin didn’t become dependent. Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky; without knowing their predisposition to the disease of addiction, patients received a pill that was a slippery slope to problems.
Since doctors have no way of knowing who is susceptible to opioid use disorder, they are in the dark prescribing these powerful narcotics, essentially; such a scenario will always come with risks. With that in mind there is a vital need for researchers to develop safe, effective pain remedies.
What are Enkephalins?
Scientists understand the importance of creating a breakthrough medication, and they are moving forward with urgency. Non-addictive pain meds won’t only save lives, they could help people in recovery who experience pain for any one of a number of reasons. The development of such a drug could hinge upon enkephalins; peptides that occur naturally in the brain related to the endorphins.
The compounds are incapable of passing the blood-brain barrier, rendering them ineffective for pain management. However, researchers have found a “hack” that allows enkephalins to transcend the barrier providing relief in animal models, The Guardian reports. Scientists at University College London created a nasal spray loaded with enkephalins encapsulated in soluble polymer nanoparticles. The findings appear in the Journal of Controlled Release.
Typically, the blood-brain barrier would designate enkephalins as a threat, barring passage of the compounds pain-relieving properties to our neuroreceptors. The nanoparticles allow the natural opioids through the brain’s protective barrier. Animal models indicate pain relief without indications of tolerance.
“If people don’t develop tolerance, you don’t have them always having to up the dose. And if they don’t have to up the dose, they won’t get closer and closer to overdose,” said Ijeoma Uchegbu, a professor of pharmaceutical nanoscience who is leading the research.
If human tests are fruitful, this research is a real game changer in the field of pain management and, in turn, addiction.
If you are one of the millions of people struggling with opioid use disorder tied to prescription painkiller use, Christians Drug Rehab can help. Please contact us to discuss treatment options. The journey of recovery is only a phone call away.