In what may be considered a big step forward in the efforts to control the opioid abuse epidemic in the United States, researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) have confirmed that a prescription drug used in weight-loss treatment can reduce cravings for opioids. Results of the study, published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience on Jan.20, 2017, show that the anti-obesity drug lorcaserin potentially inhibits the usage and urge for oxycodone, an opioid painkiller, in preclinical studies.
Currently available treatments for opioid abuse work in a manner that opioid receptors in the brain are blocked, which lessen the euphoric highs caused by drugs. If individuals consume opioids during these treatments, the typical euphoria will not be felt as strongly by them. However, physical spaces, people and objects associated with drug use by individuals can be powerful triggers which remind them of their drug-taking habit. This reflex, known as cue reactivity, is a frequent reason for relapse among people undergoing treatment with currently available medicines and therapies.
Lead researcher Kathryn Cunningham, director of UTMB’s Center for Addiction Research and a professor in the department of pharmacology and toxicology, and her team previously found that lorcaserin decreases the number of attempts made by rats to complete an easy task for earning a dose of cocaine. However, little knowledge exists on the role of serotonin 2C receptors in changing the reward feeling induced by opioids.
Lorcaserin alters chemical signals that regulate feeling of satiety
Serotonin, a neurotransmitter passed between nerve cells, normalizes brain circuits related to drug reward and cue reactivity, by primarily stimulating serotonin 2C receptors. Lorcaserin modifies the serotonin system by altering chemical signals that regulate feelings of fullness or satiety.
For the study, researchers used a mechanism whereby rats were trained to give themselves oxycodone in response to a specific pattern of lights and sounds, which was synonymous with a drug-taking environment. After a period of time, when the rats became habituated to self-administering oxycodone in the test drug environment, the researchers stopped giving them oxycodone. Some of the rats were then given lorcaserin and the remaining were administered a placebo. The rats were reinstated in their usual drug-associated environment and oxycodone was once again provided to them.
The researchers found that rats given lorcaserin consumed less oxycodone; their reactivity to triggers of the test drug environment was also less strong. To establish that lorcaserin was indeed responsible for this change, a group of rats was given lorcaserin and another drug that works in canceling out its effect by preventing contact with serotonin 2C receptors. These rats subsequently made strong attempts to give themselves oxycodone.
Therapeutic potential of lorcaserin in controlling addiction to be explored further
The U.S. is facing an unprecedented opioid crisis. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) were responsible for more than 33,000 deaths in 2015, the highest number ever recorded. Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid. Since 1999, there has been a four-time increase in the number of overdose deaths due to opioids and over half a million people have died from drug overdoses between 2000 and 2015.
The study results show that lorcaserin is effective in reducing not only oxycodone self-administration but also in controlling reactions to cues, typically associated with relapse. According to Cunningham, this indicates the potentially therapeutic use of lorcaserin in treating opioid use disorder. She adds that more studies are planned to increase the understanding of how lorcaserin and similar drugs can be used in battling America’s opioid crisis.
Seek timely help for drug addiction problems
Symptoms of addiction to opioids and other substances need to be recognized early to ensure timely intervention. Any delay might result in devastating consequences. If you or a loved one is addicted to harmful substances and is looking for good rehab centers in California, contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California. You can call us at 855-738-2770 for immediate assistance or chat online with our representatives who will provide you with all relevant information regarding the best prescription drug rehab centers in California.