Opioids: addiction and overdose — update

United States; December 2020

An update to the Opioids, addiction, and overdose bibliography; these articles have been added to the bibliography and to the Science Primary Literature Database.

Featured articles:

*Chalhoub, R. M., & Kalivas, P. W. (2020). Non‑Opioid treatments for opioid use disorder: Rationales and data to date. Drugs, 80(15), 1509-1524.

Opioid use disorder (OUD) represents a major public health problem that affects millions of people in the USA and worldwide. The relapsing and recurring aspect of OUD, driven by lasting neurobiological adaptations at different reward centres in the brain, represents a major obstacle towards successful long-term remission from opioid use. Currently, three drugs that modulate the function of the opioidergic receptors, methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat OUD. In this review, we discuss the limitations and challenges associated with the current maintenance and medication-assisted withdrawal strategies commonly used to treat OUD. We further explore the involvement of glutamatergic, endocannabinoid and orexin signaling systems in the development, maintenance and expression of addiction-like behaviors in animal models of opioid addiction, and as potential and novel targets to expand therapeutic options to treat OUD. Despite a growing preclinical literature highlighting the role of these potential targets in animal models of opioid addiction, clinical and translational studies for novel treatments of OUD remain limited and inconclusive. Further preclinical and clinical investigations are needed to expand the arsenal of primary treatment options and adjuncts to maximize efficacy and prevent relapse.”

*Damiescu, R., Banerjee, M., Lee, D.Y.W., Paul, N.W., & Efferth, T. (2021). Health(care) in the crisis: Reflections in science and society on opioid addiction. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(1), 341. [PDF] [Cited by]

Opioid abuse and misuse have led to an epidemic which is currently spreading worldwide. Since the number of opioid overdoses is still increasing, it is becoming obvious that current rather unsystematic approaches to tackle this health problem are not effective. This review suggests that fighting the opioid epidemic requires a structured public health approach. Therefore, it is important to consider not only scientific and biomedical perspectives, but societal implications and the lived experience of groups at risk as well. Hence, this review evaluates the risk factors associated with opioid overdoses and investigates the rates of chronic opioid misuse, particularly in the context of chronic pain as well as post-surgery treatments, as the entrance of opioids in people’s lives. Linking pharmaceutical biology to narrative analysis is essential to understand the modulations of the usual themes of addiction and abuse present in the opioid crisis. This paper shows that patient narratives can be an important resource in understanding the complexity of opioid abuse and addiction. In particular, the relationship between chronic pain and social inequality must be considered. The main goal of this review is to demonstrate how a deeper transdisciplinary-enriched understanding can lead to more precise strategies of prevention or treatment of opioid abuse.”

*Emery, M. A., & Akil, H. (2020). Endogenous opioids at the intersection of opioid addiction, pain, and depression: The search for a precision medicine approach. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 43, 355-374. [Cited by]

*Opioid addiction and overdose are at record levels in the United States. This is driven, in part, by their widespread prescription for the treatment of pain, which also increased opportunity for diversion by sensation-seeking users. Despite considerable research on the neurobiology of addiction, treatment options for opioid abuse remain limited. Mood disorders, particularly depression, are often comorbid with both pain disorders and opioid abuse. The endogenous opioid system, a complex neuromodulatory system, sits at the neurobiological convergence point of these three comorbid disease states. We review evidence for dysregulation of the endogenous opioid system as a mechanism for the development of opioid addiction and/or mood disorder. Specifically, individual differences in opioid system function may underlie differences in vulnerability to opioid addiction and mood disorders. We also review novel research, which promises to provide more detailed understanding of individual differences in endogenous opioid neurobiology and its contribution to opioid addiction susceptibility.”

Questions? Please let me know (engelk@grinnell.edu).

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