Withdrawal. It’s a huge hurdle on the path to recovery.
Those struggling to leave opioids behind know they’ll eventually have to face the intimidating mental and physical effects of withdrawal. It’s a powerful and frightening thought.
Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle aches and cramps
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Anxiety, profuse sweating, and restlessness
- Blurry vision
- High blood pressure
Help Where It’s Needed Most
Even though millions of Americans are in the midst of this battle, few medications are available to effectively manage their symptoms. This unavailability – and the onset of painful withdrawal symptoms – are often enough to make many people give up and return to opioids for relief.
But this could soon change…
According to the results of a recent study, help for intense withdrawal symptoms might be on the horizon, thanks to the discovery of a new drug.
“Opioid withdrawal is aversive, debilitating, and can compel individuals to continue using the drug in order to prevent these symptoms,” explains lead researcher Tuan Trang, PhD.
“In our study, we effectively alleviated withdrawal symptoms in rodents, which could have important implications for patients that may wish to decrease or stop their use of these medications.”
Researchers from the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Hotchkiss Brain Institute investigated the process of withdrawal and its’ possible causes. The study involved rats which had been given two potent opioids, morphine and fentanyl. The team identified the glycoprotein, pannexin-1, as the source of withdrawal symptoms in rodents. Pannexin-1 is also located throughout the human body, including the brain and spinal cord.
After identifying the cause of these symptoms, the team tested a drug already proven to block the effects of pannexin-1 called, Probenecid. It’s an anti-gout medication that’s fairly cheap and has few side effects.
The results showed this medicine was “effective in reducing the severity of withdrawal symptoms in opioid-dependent rodents.” Another encouraging aspect about their findings: the medication didn’t affect an opioids’ ability to relieve pain.
Previous research hadn’t explored this avenue, and this investigation has provided a better understanding of opioid withdrawal at the cellular level.
Canadian pain researcher, Dr. Michael Salter, notes, “This is an exciting study which reveals a new mechanism and a potential therapeutic target for managing opioid withdrawal. The findings of Dr. Trang and his team could have important implications for people on opioid therapy and those attempting to stop opioid use.”
The team behind the study plan to continue their work and hope this new insight will lead to the creation of a more effective treatment method for the symptoms of withdrawal. Dr. Trang says their next steps will be to determine the drug effectiveness in humans and to ensure its’ safety. Their goal is to develop an effective method to treat the millions struggling with pain management and opioid dependency across the nation and around the world.
These results have already lead to the development of a clinical trial at the Calgary Pain Clinic.
Additional Reading: I’m Having Opiate Withdrawals – Am I Addicted?
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