Morphine is just about the best painkiller out there, as any doctor or any person who’s ever been in an accident will tell you. There’s just one small problem—it’s incredibly addictive. But thanks to some researchers from the University of Colorado and the University of Adelaide, we may have outsmarted that propensity for dependency.
They’ve found a way to get rid of the opiate’s addictive properties by blocking the brain’s Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4)—a portion of the immune system that binds with opioids to amplify chemical addiction—with naloxone, a drug used to treat heroin overdoses. Naloxone works like a dam, keeping at bay the dopamine that is usually released when heroin is processed, thus staving off that rush of pleasure someone might feel when they shoot up (or whatever method of intake). Once that good feeling is gone, there’s much less of an incentive to use.
There are two benefits of this discovery—one is helping patients manage severe pain, and another is helping addicts kick their habit in a safe way. And it actually seems like it’s something that we might see implemented—researchers expect trials to start within the next 18 months. (University of Adelaide)