At Sierra by the Sea, we treat many addicts who wish they had never touched heroin and morphine. Though we can’t go back in time, some scientists are claiming that we may be able to prevent future generations of drug experimenters from getting addicted to heroin and morphine.
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 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 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 tobacteria. 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 behaviors 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.” *This study has only be conducted on laboratory rats, not yet on humans.