Thursday, April 27, 2017

This Prescription Medication May Aid in Treating Opioid Addiction

Female Doctor
Given the rapid growth in opioid use and abuse, many researchers are working hard to develop new and innovative therapies that providers can use to treat the condition. In addition to that, scientists are also taking a closer look at using existing medications to aid in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

In that same vein, a team at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) examined the effects of a prescription medication, Lorcaserin, that was originally designed to help clinically obese patients return to a healthier weight.

Lorcaserin was originally approved in 2012 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat patients with a body mass index (BMI) over 30. The medication works by altering how the brain processes serotonin, which is associated with feelings of fullness. Serotonin also plays an important role in the disease of addiction - this neurotransmitter also controls the pathways associated with drug seeking behaviors.

To better understand how Lorcaserin affects the addicted brain, Kathryn Cunningham, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology and director of Center for Addiction Research at UTMB, and her team of researchers evaluated the behavior of rats who were given an unlimited supply of Oxycodone. The scientists then administered Lorcaserin to some of the rats, while others received a placebo. They found that the group of rats who received Lorcaserin self-administered Oxycodone less often and exhibited fewer drug-seeking behaviors.

In a paper published in the American Chemical Society Neuroscience, Cunningham and her collaborators found that the prescription could have a profound impact in the lives of those struggling with an addiction. Lorcaserin can help those with an opioid addiction by reducing the urge to use opiates and ultimately, mitigating the risk of relapse.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2 million Americans are dealing with an addiction to prescription painkillers and drug overdose is now the most common form of accidental deaths in the U.S. Given the severity of this public health crisis, it’s important that the addiction recovery community continues to make progress towards fighting this epidemic.

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