A peek into opioid users’ brains as they try to quit

Lying inside a scanner, the patient watched as pictures appeared one by one: A bicycle. A cupcake. Heroin. Outside, researchers tracked her brain’s reactions to the surprise sight of the drug she’d fought to kick.

Government scientists are starting to peek into the brains of people caught in the nation’s opioid epidemic, to see if medicines proven to treat addiction, like methadone, do more than ease the cravings and withdrawal. Do they also heal a brain damaged by addiction? And which one works best for which patient?

They’re fundamental questions considering that far too few of the 2 million opioid users who need anti-addiction medicine actually receive it.

Full story at Medical Xpress

Federal Grants ‘A Lifesaver’ In Opioid Fight, But States Still Struggle To Curb Meth

In his 40 years of working with people struggling with addiction, David Crowe has seen various drugs fade in and out of popularity in Pennsylvania’s Crawford County.

Methamphetamine use and distribution is a major challenge for the rural area, said Crowe, the executive director of Crawford County Drug and Alcohol Executive Commission. But opioid-related overdoses have killed at least 83 people in the county since 2015, he said.

Crowe said his organization has received just over $327,300 from key federal grants designed to curb the opioid epidemic. While the money was a godsend for the county — south of Lake Erie on the Ohio state line — he said, methamphetamine is still a major problem.

Full story at Kaiser Health News

Use Of Buprenorphine To Treat Opioid Addiction Proliferates In California

Buprenorphine, a relative newcomer in the treatment of opioid addiction, is growing in popularity among California doctors as regulatory changes, physician training and other initiatives make the medication more widely accessible.

The rate of Medi-Cal enrollees who received buprenorphine nearly quadrupled from the end of 2014 to the third quarter of 2018, according to data released by Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. The rate for methadone — an older and more commonly used drug — was almost unchanged from the end of 2014 through the last quarter of 2017, the most recent period for which data are available.

Buprenorphine and methadone are both opioids. Both reduce cravings for heroin and synthetic opioids while minimizing withdrawal symptoms. But buprenorphine is less potent and less likely to result in fatal overdoses than methadone. California doctors have more flexibility in prescribing it than with methadone or naltrexone, another medication used to treat addiction.

Full story at Kaiser Health News

Opioids without the risk of addiction?

Scientists are working to develop medicines that have the pain-relieving effects of opioids without the high risk of misuse and addiction. Since misuse is linked to the euphoric effects of the drug, investigators led by scientists at NIDA’s intramural labs are studying methadone, a drug used to manage opioid addiction that does not have euphoric effects as strong as many other opioids.

Animal studies show that mu opioid receptors in the brain play a key role in the reinforcing effects of opioid drugs, whereas the neuropeptide galanin counteracts the effects of mu opioid receptors. In a recently published study, investigators found a significant difference in the mechanisms of action between methadone and morphine that is determined by the activation of opioid receptor complexes (heteromers) composed of both mu-opioid receptors and one of the galanin receptor subtypes; differences that are key to their subsequent effects on the brain’s dopamine system.

Full story at drugabuse.org

Children’s Accidental Exposure to Buprenorphine on the Rise

Children’s accidental exposure to the opioid addiction medication buprenorphine is increasing, according to new data from U.S. poison control centers.

Between 2007 and 2016, poison control centers received 11,275 calls about children’s exposure to buprenorphine, CNN reports. Eighty-six percent of exposures were in children younger than 6, and 89 percent of the exposures were unintentional. Buprenorphine can dangerously slow young children’s breathing. Almost one-quarter of the children under 6 who are exposed spend time in intensive care, the researchers noted.

Full story at drugabuse.org