In 2015, an estimated 119 million Americans were prescribed some form of psychotherapeutic drug, such as an antidepressant, stimulant, painkiller or tranquilizer. Of this population, 16 million reported abusing prescription painkillers alone. Since 2000, the death rates attributed to opioid overdoses have quadrupled. It is imperative that research and development of non-narcotic pain medication progress in order to reverse this disturbing trend of abuse and death attributed to opioids.
What Kind of Non-Narcotic Pain Medication Is in Development?
Researchers at Tulane University in 2016 released a study published in the journal Neuropharmacology regarding the development of a new non-narcotic pain medication. This new painkiller is as strong as morphine but without the enormous potential for addiction and with fewer side effects. The lead investigator of the research, James Zadina, explained that the side effects produced by the new medication were either absent or minimal. For example, in a study involving rodents, the slowed breathing rate and lack of coordination present while the rats were on morphine were not observed when they were given the new drug. The researchers conducted two specific studies to test the tolerance and addictive potential of this new non-narcotic pain medication. In the first, rats that were given morphine didn’t leave the compartment in which they had received the drug. But the rats exposed to the new drug moved about the multi-compartment container freely. The second test showed that rats that could press a lever to administer morphine did so repeatedly, but those that received the non-narcotic pain medication did not. Zadina said these findings are likely to occur within the human population as well. Clinical trials on humans are planned to begin within the next year or two.
How Can Non-Narcotic Pain Medication Help?
Opioid pain medications are prescribed after surgeries or other medical procedures to alleviate extreme pain. However, the euphoria and pleasurable relaxation they provide, as well as the body’s ability to develop a tolerance, too often lead to addiction. Many individuals who never thought they could become addicted to drugs quickly find themselves hooked on the seemingly innocent prescription they received after having their wisdom teeth removed. These individuals often need to attend treatment for prescription drug abuse. New laws have helped to tighten restrictions surrounding the disbursement of painkillers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines in March 2016 for the prescribing of opioid medications. The agency outlined three key principles within a set of 12 recommendations:
- Opioids should be prescribed only when the benefits of their effects outweigh the potential associated risks, save for cancer treatment, palliative or end-of-life care.
- When opioid medications are necessary, only the lowest dose should be prescribed.
- Once medications have been prescribed, clinicians should monitor their patients closely.
Non-narcotic pain medications can help those who have never been addicted to opioids avoid the scourge of addiction. Additionally, they can help those who are already aware of an addiction receive the pain management treatment they require. These medications have incredible potential to help many people receive care in a non-threatening manner. Resources “Results From the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015.pdf “Reducing the Risks of Relief – The CDC Opioid-Prescribing Guideline” The New England Journal of Medicine https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1515917 “New drug could be safer, non-addictive alternative to morphine” Science Daily https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160128155006.htm