Researchers from America and Germany have confirmed a hypothesis many doctors and scientists have been pondering regarding opioids: is it possible to make a non-addictive opioid? Using rats for the experiment, the researchers created pain and inflammation in some of the rats’ paws. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid prescribed to chronic pain patients who do not receive benefit from traditional morphine-based painkillers. Considerably more potent than morphine, fentanyl addiction and overdose have swept the nation in the height of the opioid epidemic. Using both fentanyl and a new chemical compound called NFEPP, researchers looked for the differences in reactions.
Fentanyl caused typical opioid reactions including analgesia all over the body, respiratory depression, constipation, and even encouraged drug-seeking behavior, according to Inverse. The researchers wanted to find a compound “that would produce pain relief by selectively activating peripheral opioid receptors without eliciting adverse side effects via opioid receptors in the brain or gut.” Typical opioid medications affect the rest of the body by interacting with opioid receptors in the brain and even with gut bacteria, which then interacts with the brain. Finding a chemical compound which could affect only the site of pain would be revolutionary and could change the opioid market entirely.
NFEPP created none of the same opioid effects. Researchers even administered the NFEPP in “quantities that would be lethal for fentanyl doses,” and found no adverse reactions. Rather than have to endure sensations throughout the entire body and mind, the new chemical compound provided exactly what opioids are supposed to provide: pain relief. Specifically, NFEPP works by targeting inflamed tissues and bonding to them because of the tissues’ lowered pH levels.
Opioid drugs like fentanyl are highly addictive for a few reasons. First, they don’t work long term. Overtime, patients develop a tolerance for the drugs as well as a heightened sensitivity to pain, because the brain can no longer regulate opioid receptors on its own. Second, though pain relief goes away, feelings of numbing throughout the body and euphoric sensations in the brain become stronger. The brain becomes chemically dependent upon the opioids, with little concern to the pain relief.
Harmony Place provides residential treatment for sub acute detox services and inpatient programming to those needing to recover from opioid addiction. For a private consultation, call 1-855-627-1417.