3 Ways Researchers Are Tackling the Science of Drug Addiction



Over 21,000,000 Americans have a problematic addiction to drugs, from alcohol to black-market opiates and everything in between. The World Health Organization estimates that globally, over 5% of the world’s disease burden can be attributed directly to drug and/or alcohol abuse.

Researchers have been studying the science behind drug addiction for the better part of a century. At any given moment, tens of thousands of scientific researchers are working on ways to prevent, stem, and even “cure” the problem of substance abuse. These professionals look at every avenue, from mental health to the elemental structure of medications, to better our understanding of how drug addiction works. Here are three promising developments in the science of substance abuse.

  1. Mapping of the Kappa Pain Receptor

    Opiate addiction is the fastest-growing substance abuse issue in America. These highly-addictive drugs are a necessary component of many legitimate medical treatments, so scientists are furiously working on drug-based solutions that can provide pain relief without subjecting users to a litany of unintended side effects. The recent structural mapping of the active Kappa pain receptor (link to other IMCS article “How a New Discovery…” once it’s live!) by a team at the UNC School of Medicine may finally give researchers the missing pieces they need to build a better drug. By developing an opiate that bonds with a pain receptor without providing addictive euphoric side effects, drug manufacturers may be able to successfully eliminate the very foundation of prescription opiate abuse.

  2. Testing the Environmental Response of Withdrawal

    Scientists in China are currently working on a long-term study to determine which drug withdrawal neurotransmitters are linked to environmental factors. By removing formerly-addicted mice from the environment in which they were addicted, researchers have proven they can deactivate the neuromechanism linked to re-addiction. In similar studies, there has even been promising evidence that use of VR (Virtual Reality) therapy in the wake of drug addiction can keep addicts from using again.

  3. Better Drugs of Abuse Testing

    Drug testing science has come a long way over the past three decades but many people (and some doctors!) are surprised to learn how inefficient and in some cases, ineffective, standard panel drug tests really are. Particularly when testing for opiate abuse, urine screenings can be inconclusive and ambiguous, providing little insight into which drugs are actually being metabolized. Better drugs of abuse testing technology is improving testing outcomes. IMCSzyme, a genetically modified pure beta-Glucuronidase, was designed to hydrolyze multiple drug classes – including opiates – without a long incubation period. Faster UDT testing allows laboratories to increase throughput and more appropriately order follow-up testing for drilldown diagnoses in cases of suspected abuse.

The researchers at IMCS are advancing the science of addiction medicine. When laboratories and medical professionals are equipped with the right tools to diagnose and treat addiction, patient outcomes are improved.

Read more on the breakthrough science behind IMCSzyme, the flagship drug testing solution from the team at IMCS. Reach out directly to learn more.