A new study performed on rats and mice asserts that addiction to heroin and morphine can be blocked. According to the research, there is mechanism located in the immune system that intensifies opioid addiction.
There is an immune receptor in the brain that stimulates the reward response for opioids. This response makes opioids addictive. By blocking this receptor, it could be possible to prevent addiction, and at the same time increase the medical benefits of opioids for pain relief. These findings will be published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
In the study, rats and mice received a drug called plus-naloxone, a relative of the drug Narcan. Narcan is prescribed to patients in order to prevent opioid overdoses.
Researcher Mark Huthinson of the University of Adelaide in Australia said, “Our studies have shown conclusively that we can block addiction via the immune system of the brain, without targeting the brain’s wiring. 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.”
Huthinson said plus-naloxene will be studied on humans to prevent opioid addiction within the next 18 months, now that the tests have been successful on rodents.