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Heroin, Morphine Addiction Blocked: Clinical Trials On The Horizon

By Sade, Aug 16, 2012 | Updated: Sep 3, 2012 | | |
  1. Sade
    In a major breakthrough, an international team of scientists has proven that addiction to morphine and heroin can be blocked, while at the same time increasing pain relief.

    The team from the University of Adelaide and University of Colorado has discovered the key mechanism in the body's immune system that amplifies addiction to opioid drugs.

    Laboratory studies have shown that the drug (+)-naloxone (pronounced: PLUS nal-OX-own) will selectively block the immune-addiction response.

    The results - which could eventually lead to new co-formulated drugs that assist patients with severe pain, as well as helping heroin users to kick the habit - will be published tomorrow in the Journal of Neuroscience.

    "Our studies have shown conclusively that we can block addiction via the immune system of the brain, without targeting the brain's wiring," says the lead author of the study, Dr Mark Hutchinson, ARC Research Fellow in the University of Adelaide's School of Medical Sciences.

    "Both the central nervous system and the immune system play important roles in creating addiction, but our studies have shown we only need to block the immune response in the brain to prevent cravings for opioid drugs."

    The team has focused its research efforts on the immune receptor known as Toll-Like receptor 4 (TLR4).

    "Opioid drugs such as morphine and heroin bind to TLR4 in a similar way to the normal immune response to bacteria. The problem is that TLR4 then acts as an amplifier for addiction," Dr Hutchinson says.

    "The drug (+)-naloxone automatically shuts down the addiction. It shuts down the need to take opioids, it cuts out behaviours associated with addiction, and the neurochemistry in the brain changes - dopamine, which is the chemical important for providing that sense of 'reward' from the drug, is no longer produced."

    Senior author Professor Linda Watkins, from the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, says: "This work fundamentally changes what we understand about opioids, reward and addiction. We've suspected for some years that TLR4 may be the key to blocking opioid addiction, but now we have the proof.

    "The drug that we've used to block addiction, (+)-naloxone, is a non-opioid mirror image drug

    that was created by Dr Kenner Rice in the 1970s. We believe this will prove extremely useful as a co-formulated drug with morphine, so that patients who require relief for severe pain will not become addicted but still receive pain relief . This has the potential to lead to major advances in patient and palliative care," Professor Watkins says.

    The researchers say clinical trials may be possible in the next 18 months.

    Medical News Today
    16th August 2012


  1. DEJA
    This is a breakthrough in medical science and could go all the way to win a Nobel prize. I was absolutely fascinated when I read about this . It was all over the news.

    Imagine how many people will benefit . It will revolutionize pain management as well as completely change the way people addicted to drugs will be treated. For the first time we could have a "cure" for opiate addiction that works for everyone.

    It's nice you posted this here.
  2. imyourlittlebare
    There is little evidence for the theory which this is based. Developed by Cochin in 1970, the explanation for tolerance was thought to be due to antibodies/immune system functioning. It was created to explain this phenomenon:

    A mother rat is made dependent on morphine. Morphine is stopped several weeks before making the dam pregnant. Those offspring were more resistant to the effects of morphine despite no exposure. It was thought that antibodies were responsible and transferred.

    Drug molecules are too small to trigger the body to form antibodies (Grilly, 2006). It was theorized that perhaps "theoretically possible for a drug molecule to bing to some type of tissue and form a complex large enough to trigger an immune reaction to it"

    The theory has largely been abandoned and while I would not be surprised that immune system functioning is affected by drugs, I am not sure that this will yield the cure we are all hopeful for. I appreciate the article, I still think ibogaine is the best chance for curing addiction or the use of ultra-low dose naltrexone on addiction has been known for a while. It hasnt happened yet. Here is one example

    Oxycodone plus ultra-low-dose naltrexone attenuates neuropathic pain and associated mu-opioid receptor-Gs coupling.

    Im not sure if its an issue with patenting or what. But the amount of money and work it would take to get a drug mixture like this on the market may not be worth it as it hasnt happened yet.

    Thanks for the article. Interesting and I will have to read the publications on this to get a better idea for myself.
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