According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), nearly 100 million American adults report suffering from chronic or severe pain. Additionally, pain is a condition that disables more Americans in the US than heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined. The most recent definition of chronic pain is as follows, “a distressing experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage with sensory, emotional, cognitive, and social components.” In accordance with the high prevalence of chronic pain, reports from the Centers for Disease Control concluded that the most commonly prescribed class of medication in the US are opioid analgesics despite a lack of evidence supporting their efficacy in treating chronic pain.Read More
In a survey of substance abuse-related hospital admissions taken by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a total of 26% of all admissions surveyed were due to primary opioid addiction. Of the 1.7 million cases surveyed, this percentage represents just under half a million cases in which opioid misuse was the primary issue . This staggering proportion underscores the prevalence of opioid dependence in the US and begs the question of what is being done to help those struggling against opioid dependence.
One approach to assisting individuals recovering from opioid addiction has been to treat with a maintenance drug. A maintenance drug is a drug prescribed by a healthcare professional that helps reduce the cravings for opioids that often lead to relapse. Current treatments include methadone and buprenorphine, both of which can be thought of as substitute agents for the more addictive substances. While these types of therapies can often help reduce cravings and prevent withdrawal effects, they still carry the risk of abuse due to their pharmacological similarity to morphine and other opioids.
Naltrexone, a drug that works to block the receptors that mediate the addictiveness of opioids, has been tested previously as an agent to help patients maintain abstinence from opioid abuse. While its oral form demonstrates some efficacy, its clinical use has been limited due to issues with patient compliance . Two recent studies from groups in the US and Norway have tested a new, injectable version of naltrexone that has shown promise compared to current standards of care [3, 4]. While relapse rates remain high among those recovering from opioid abuse, the continued development of pharmacotherapies in helping to reduce cravings is crucial in the effort to help these patients win back their independence .
Staff Writer, Signal to Noise Magazine
MD/PhD Candidate in Molecular Biology Interdepartmental Doctoral Program, UCLA
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS): 2002-2012. National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services. BHSIS Series S-71, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4850. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2014).
 Bart, G. Maintenance medication for opiate addiction: the foundation of recovery. Journal of Addictive Diseases 31(3), 207-225 (2012).
 Tanum, L., et al. Effectiveness of Injectable Extended-Release Naltrexone vs Daily Buprenorphine-Naloxone for Opioid Dependence: A Randomized Clinical Noninferiority Trial. JAMA Psychiatry 74(12), 1197-1205 (2017).
 Lee, J. D., et al. Comparative effectiveness of extended-release naltrexone versus buprenorphine-naloxone for opioid relapse prevention (X: BOT): a multicentre, open-label, randomised controlled trial. The Lancet 391(10118), 309-318 (2017).
 Smyth, B. P., Barry, J., Keenan, E., & Ducray, K. (2010). Lapse and relapse following inpatient treatment of opiate dependence. Irish Medical Journal 103(6), 176-179 (2010).
3-D printing. Virtual reality. Artificial intelligence. Self-driving cars. Robotic surgery. Gene editing. Higgs boson. The list goes on. These recent breakthroughs are becoming household words (and items), and they are a testament to the rapid expansion of our society’s technological capabilities. In the world of medical research, however, this paradigm has recently shifted towards exploring natural biological systems rather than focusing on the typical research areas of medical devices and drug development.Read More
Inside the walls of hospitals across the country, babies are literally crying out for drugs. The rising rate of opioid use and abuse has dramatically increased the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Characterized by inconsolable crying, seizures, difficulties feeding, sweating, and vomiting, NAS is the result of an infant’s withdrawal from opioids that the child was exposed to in utero. Upon delivery, newborns diagnosed with NAS often require prolonged treatment and spend days, weeks, or even months in a hospital.Read More
If one were to ask what lies within the heart of a person suffering from opioid addiction, a bacterial infection most likely isn’t the first answer that would come to mind. Infective Endocarditis (IE) is an infection of the heart valve and is one of several infectious diseases that intravenous (IV) drug users have an increased risk of acquiring.Read More
How can the chemical structure of codeine, an opiate sold over-the-counter for years in cough medication, differ only slightly from that of a highly-regulated opiate like morphine? And why does this slight change in structure cause our bodies to respond differently to each drug? The answer comes down to the relationship between drug structure and function.Read More