Highly-addictive pain medications, opioids in particular, have become a national epidemic. Tens of thousands of people die from opioid overdoses every year in the United States, but researchers are working around the clock to develop better, less addictive solutions to pain.
Here are some of the most recent developments to note in the field of addiction medicine.
Questions Over the Effectiveness of Opioids
In recent years, concerned doctors and scientists have begun to question the purportedly infallible effectiveness of opioid medications. One recent study, in fact, shines doubt on whether several of the most commonly-prescribed opioids are any more effective at reducing moderate-to-severe pain in emergency room patients than a combination of non-opioid painkillers, namely acetaminophen. Significant research is currently underway within the field of pain medication to pinpoint non-opioid solutions with comparable benefits. The most promising sectors for breakthroughs include NSAIDs, corticosteroids, and even non-drug treatments such as physical therapy or acupuncture.
Targeting the Right Pain Receptors
The holy grail of non-addictive pain medicine is the ability to target pain receptors without setting off a chain of addictive side effects. Scientists are getting closer. PAMs (positive allosteric modulators), for example, are designed to target secondary pain receptors in the body, avoiding the systems that activate the brain’s reward center. Research into a derivative of the opioid orvinol is finding promising evidence that targeting both pain receptors and nociception receptors offers an analgesic effect without the addictive consequences. Similar studies abroad are working on identifying an opiate that only activates the pain receptors in inflamed, irritated tissues rather than throughout the body. Pain receptors are the foundation of the science of pain management, and new breakthroughs are happening every day.
Mapping a New Pain Receptor
Some scientists believe that the solution to less-addictive opioids lies in which pain receptors the medication bonds to, not where in the body it happens. Of the four primary types of pain receptors, the Kappa receptor has long been believed to have the most potential for catalyzing pain relief without also introducing a litany of harmful side effects like addiction. The problem is that until recently, the kappa receptor had yet to be fully “mapped” so that drug researchers could begin to build an opioid to fit its shape. In early 2018, a team at UNC was finally able to map the receptor in its active state, the first step in designing a drug that can attach to it – and avoid more problematic receptors - successfully.
IMCS is invested in the science of opioid addiction. IMCSzyme, one of our flagship products, is designed to hydrolyze multiple drug classes – including opioids – incredibly quickly and accurately. We strongly believe that better drug testing is one of the keys to combatting serious addiction.
Ready to learn more about how IMCSzyme can improve your drug testing process? Reach out to our team today.