Weight-loss drug shows potential to treat opioid abuse, finds study

Weight-loss drug shows potential to treat opioid abuse, finds study

Opioid abuse is a fine example of a good thing going wrong. Opioids, medically approved as effective painkillers, are being increasingly used for non-medicinal purposes and the numbers are devastating. With 91 people in the United States losing lives to opioid overdose every day, the overall figure for millions dying of drug overdoses has been over half a million between 2000 and 2015, cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Considering the havoc opioid abuse has created, there is a dire need to introduce effective measures to prevent and control the epidemic while developing potent treatment modalities to reduce the mortality rates. A recent study from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston has found a prescription weight-loss pill that can reduce the urge to use opioid such as oxycodone.

Efficacy of lorcaserin in reducing opioid cravings

The study published in the ACS Chemical Neuroscience in January 2017, highlighted the efficacy of lorcaserin, a drug used to help obese or overweight adults to lose and maintain weight, in reducing the craving for oxycodone, an opioid drug. Surprisingly, 81 percent of the global consumption of oxycodone is contributed by the U.S., which suggests the enormous abuse potential of the drug, as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Kathryn Cunningham, director of UTMB’s Center for Addiction Research and a professor in the department of pharmacology and toxicology confirmed the findings by suggesting that this can pave way for treating opioid use disorders by making use of the therapeutic potential of lorcaserin. She and her team plan to conduct more studies to better understand how drugs like lorcaserin can curb the addiction epidemic in America.

Opioid abuse has been identified as a major public health concern with the mortality rate related to prescription opioid overdose seeing a four-fold rise in America since 1999. Furthermore, high relapse rates and many people not completing the treatment affect the outcome of opioid abuse treatment programs. A majority of the treatment alternatives for opioid abuse block opioid receptors in the brain in order to control cravings. However, the environment in which the person has been taking the drug acts as a powerful cue inciting insatiable hunger for the drug. This phenomenon (also called as cue reactivity) often leads to relapse in people who have been treated successfully.

Lorcaserin, on the contrary, works by altering the serotonin system and changing the chemical signals affecting satiety, the feeling of being full. Serotonin is involved in the regulation of the brain circuitry responsible for drug reward and cue reactivity. The experiment carried out on rats revealed that lorcaserin suppress oxycodone self-administration and oxycodone-associated cue reactivity, which is known to be a major cause of relapse in patients treated with oxycodone.

Seeking a professional’s help is a must

Currently, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is used to treat opioid use disorders (OUDs) along with psychotherapies. Medications approved by the FDA to treat OUDs include methadone (to reduce craving and prevent opioid withdrawal symptoms), buprenorphine (to reduce or remove opioid withdrawal symptoms while reducing craving without euphoria) and naltrexone (to prevent relapse following the detox).

Patients battling opioid abuse should immediately see a health care professional to prevent further complications. If you or your loved ones is looking for information on drug treatment centers in Florida, contact the Florida Prescription Addiction Helpline. You can chat online or call our 24/7 helpline number 866-292-3211 for assistance in finding various prescription drug rehabilitation facilities in Florida.

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