New Opioids Can Reduce Pain Without Overdose Risk
Scientists have learned how to create opioids that can effectively reduce pain without putting users at risk for an overdose. The new opioids are as potent as morphine, and deliver pain relief without slowing down breathing and respiration — an opioid side effect that commonly leads to drug overdoses. These pills will be touted as safer alternatives to painkillers being used today, since opioid use in the U.S. has become a deadly epidemic on behalf of high overdose rates.
Why Do Opioids Cause Overdoses?
All opioids — including heroin and painkillers like oxycodone and fentanyl — offer pain relief by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system that control feelings of pain and pleasure. These same receptors also slow down breathing and respiration. People who become dependent on opioids or who use high amounts of these drugs are often at greater risk for an overdose due to the drug’s effects.
The Creation of Safer Opioids
The new study was based on two decades of research that examined the neurological pathways affected by opioid use. Scientists set out to determine whether the pathway that controls pain relief could be unlinked from the pathway that suppresses breathing. Over the course of the study, scientists developed over 500 compounds to change the chemical structure of painkillers in a way that wouldn’t lead to suppressed breathing.
During their research, scientists also learned that certain opioids tend to favor respiratory pathways over pain relief pathways, such as fentanyl. Fentanyl caused more than 20,000 overdose deaths in 2016 alone.
The new opioids are designed to separate the desired effects such as pain relief from adverse side effects like slowed breathing. However, the new painkillers will still carry a high risk for dependence and addiction, even if they do offer a lower overdose risk.
How to Overcome Opioid Dependence and Addiction
Opioids caused over 33,000 overdose deaths in 2016. Opioid addiction is a national health crisis, and has caused hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths in recent years. Opioid addiction can be difficult and dangerous to overcome on one’s own due to the way these drugs interfere with the brain and central nervous system.
Opioid dependence and addiction can be safely treated with drug detox and therapy. Opioid detox treatments commonly involve the use of medications that eliminate opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These medication-assisted treatments allow patients to safely withdraw from opioids and recover more comfortably with a lower risk for complications.
Opioid addiction can be treated using a combination of therapies including counseling, support groups, and relapse prevention training. These therapies treat the mental root causes of addiction and teach patients skills that help them navigate life without craving or feeling urges to use opioids. A professional opioid detox treatment can eliminate the risk for an overdose, along with lifelong problems that can stem from addiction.
If you or someone you love is addicted to painkillers, understand that help is available and nearby. Call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-483-2193(Who Answers?) to speak with a caring drug abuse counselor ready to help you find the nearest opioid detox center.