Opioid Addiction: Blame it on the Brain

Brain Mredicine

(DGIwire) — Toxic relationships, with another person or an addictive substance, can be hard to escape. Blame it on the brain: according to neuroscientists at Harvard University Medical School, the brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate from a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter or even a satisfying meal. Pleasure has a distinct signature: the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex. Dopamine release is so consistently tied with pleasure that this region is known as the brain’s pleasure center.

However, this natural process can quickly turn toxic when the brain’s main source of pleasure is derived from painkillers—whether in the form of illicit drugs such as heroin, or prescription drugs like oxycodone and morphine. Sadly, many people become addicted to painkillers that have been prescribed to them to manage chronic pain disorders such as back pain, neuropathic pain, and pain associated with cancer. Adding to the complexity, opioid dependence is a significantly undertreated condition in the U.S., with two and a half million people dependent on prescription opioids, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Commenting on the issue, Mark A. Sirgo, Pharm. D., President and CEO of BioDelivery Sciences International, Inc. (BDSI), says, “New and innovative therapeutics designed to address these critical unmet medical needs are warranted.” Dr. Sirgo should know: BDSI, a specialty pharmaceutical company based in Raleigh, NC, is dedicated and focused on finding new methods to manage chronic pain disorders particularly with a lower propensity for addiction and abuse compared to Schedule II opioids such as oxycodone and morphine.

Dr. Sirgo continued, “The ultimate goal is always to enhance patient care by improving upon existing drugs by enhancing their efficacy or ease of administration, or by creating new therapies. Millions of people need, new and effective ways to manage their chronic pain.”