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A new opiate aims to deliver pain relief without giving the ‘high’ that fuels addiction

opium-poppyNatural opiates derived from the poppy plant and the synthetic opioids that resemble them are both valued for their powerful analgesic effects.  They also induce a euphoria that makes them highly addictive to some people.  Physicians would like a derivative that delivers the pain relief without boosting the dopamine pathways in the brain to deliver the drug’s ‘high’ that goes along with it and brings the problem of possible addiction.

Now Nektar Therapeutics has added a side chain to a morphine derivative that slows the rate at which it can affect the brain.  The result is a drug that gives good pain relief without the rush of instant pleasure that addicts find irresistible.  I myself have had heroin, but in my case it was called by its other name, diamorphine, and was administered in hospital.  I was not tempted to addiction.  A doctor friend told me that the brain’s response to the drug is different when it is administered to a patient in pain, as opposed to someone looking for kicks.  A drug that can relieve the pain without leading people to become addicted is an obvious benefit, and if Nektar’s new compound passes its safety tests, it might just provide that.


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