Undoubtedly, opioids are the most effective compounds to successfully treat moderate to severe pain and their use has substantially increased over the past decades. According to the 2017 Annual Surveillance Report of Drug-Related Risks and Outcomes published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 19.1 people out of every 100 received one or more opioid prescriptions, averaging to about 3.5 prescriptions per person in 2016.
Unfortunately, these highly addictive drugs have led to widespread abuse and increase in overdose deaths. When prescription opioids were unavailable, people turned to heroin and less expensive alternatives like fentanyl. This, in turn, fueled a crisis of epidemic proportions in the United States.
While the age-adjusted rate of drug overdose fatalities rose from 6.1 to 16.3 per 100,000 people in 2015, it climbed to 19.8 per 100,000 in 2016. It was more than three times the rate in 1999 and clocked a 21 percent higher rate than 2015. Additionally, the total number of drug overdose deaths increased from 52,404 in 2015 to 63,600 in 2016.
As the U.S. struggles to mitigate this disaster afflicting thousands of people, researchers have been studying opioid addiction and its impact on health to devise effective remedial measures. They have made immense progress in advancing a proper understanding about such issues among people.
Several papers were presented at Neuroscience 2017, an annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, to learn from experts, build partnerships with peers, explore new tools and technologies, etc. Being the largest source of emerging news about brain and health, scientists presented their findings on emerging science.
Some of the new findings at this conference are encapsulated below:
- Genetic variant of an opioid receptor gene protects from the behavioral effects of prenatal opioid exposure
Opioid abuse and addiction during pregnancy lead to deleterious effects in newborns, such as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). It inflicts a complex set of withdrawal symptoms that include gastrointestinal distress, sleep problems, tremors, crankiness, etc. Researchers led by Shivon April Robinson have been able to identify a gene variant that is present in approximately 25 percent of people. It protects a person from the development of later deficits in emotional regulation and social attachment caused due to prenatal opioid exposure.
- Opioid use aggravates symptoms of PTSD
People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often use opioids to “self-medicate” themselves in an effort to reduce their fear and anxiety caused due to a traumatic event. However, Zachary T. Pennington and his team examined the potential of chronic drug abuse in eliciting fear and anxiety. In a study involving mice, they found that persistent exposure to drugs intensifies fear and stress responses in the brains of mice, which may also explain why opioid users suffer more from PTSD than non-users.
- Erasure of drug memories inhibits drug cravings and relapse
Ping Wu and his team of researchers conducted animal studies on the effectiveness of a novel method like memory retrieval-extinction procedure in eliminating drug memories. To assess the outcomes, they used the same technique on people recovering from heroin abuse. The procedure was found to be successful when administered within an hour of methadone treatment.
- Higher incidence of brain abnormalities in critically ill full-term infants under prolonged sedation
The prolonged administration of sedatives, such as opioids and benzodiazepines, and anesthesia for the management of pain in critically ill infants after birth or undergoing surgery is associated not only with a high level of tolerance but also with brain abnormalities. Dusica Bajic and team could find many incidences of brain abnormalities through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans that suggested that prolonged sedation could delay brain growth.
- Diet rich in HFCS dampens responses to oxycodone and encourages higher abuse
Meenu Minhas and her team provided unlimited access to high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to rats and found that it altered their neural and behavioural responses to an extensively abused prescription opioid like oxycodone. Such were the changes that they began consuming more oxycodone and started developing dependence on it.
Get help for prescription drug addiction
Ongoing research in the field of opioid addiction holds promises for advancing the treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs). On average, around 90 Americans succumb to opioid overdoses on a daily basis. Considered as an epidemic and crisis, the need of the hour is to enunciate effective remedial measures against opioid addiction.
If you or your loved one is addicted to prescription drugs, contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline to find the best prescription drug abuse treatment centers. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-450-1557 or chat online to know about the most reputable prescription drug abuse treatment clinic in your area.