Opiate Addiction: Venom May Replace Morphine

opiate addictionFor those suffering from opiate addiction, it is a wise idea to disclose our past histories with our doctors. However, it might not even come to that anymore, as there may be a replacement of morphine altogether. Strangely enough, that replacement would be derived from centipede venom.

More interesting, the venom treatments would not just be for those suffering with opiate addiction, but for anyone seeking pain relief. The initial studies suggest that the agents within centipede venom may be more effective at fighting pain than synthetic painkillers or other pain pills.

Furthermore, the venom from the Chinese redheaded centipede, which contains a sodium-ion channel blocker, causes indifference to all forms of pain, and not just specific types of pain like many current painkillers on the market.

There are challenges in developing a treatment, though. The proteins targeted by the venom run along one of nine channels, which effect other “easily excitable” and neurons. Among those are cells that control heart and muscle function. In other words, any treatment has to be specific to those areas that are specific to pain.

The good news is that the Chinese redheaded centipede seems to have 150 times the selectivity for that specific pain channel (Nav1.7) over other channels. Best of all, research currently indicates that there is little to no risk for addiction by using venom-based pain therapies because it does not block the same receptors that morphine does.

There is an increasing body of research looking toward animal venoms for use in pain relief, but this is the first to focus specifically on centipede venom.

To date, chronic pain costs the US more than $600 billion a year—more than cancer, heart disease, and diabetes combined. It is believed that up to 20% of the population suffers from chronic pain at any given time, and thus the risk for opiate addiction is consistently high among the population. With the advent of a new pain treatment, the annual costs of addiction may be dropping as well.

While this new finding is promising, recovering addicts and alcoholics have heard much of this before. There have been many prescription pain pills that had been declared “non-addictive,” only for users to find out later that those assertions were not true whatsoever. As such, there has always been something of a balancing act for people in recovery suffering from chronic pain between pain management and the risk of falling back into active addiction.

Especially for opiate addicts, the risks are even higher. Because the same medicines used to treat pain are the opiate addict’s drug of choice, the temptation to abuse one’s medication is always present. Because addicts’ natural reaction is to use, and they, by definition, have no power of control, pain management is a daily gamble when relying on opiate-based painkillers.

What do you think? Is this one more false hope for addicts suffering from chronic pain, or is this the solution they have all been waiting for? Let us know in the comments section below!

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