New studies have shown that the experimental drug originally developed as an antidepressant significantly altered the acute signs of opioid withdrawal in rats in just three days.
Abuse and dependence on opioids such as heroin, morphine and prescription pain medicines is a serious global health problem. According to the National Institute for Narcotics Abuse (NIDA), it is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide.
Opioid abstinence symptoms may range from mild to severe, including anxiety, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, muscle pain, sweating, enlarged pupils or watermelons, heart rate, excessive yawning, heart failure, insomnia, depression or aggression. and sleep or trembling.
"Rapastinel opioid dependence research is currently only performed on rodents, but if the drug continues to be successful, it can enter clinical trials for use in humans"
While medicines are available to relieve symptoms of opioid recovery, they cause side effects and can keep brain changes that have led to addiction, which can lead to recurrence before the end of treatment.
"We found that rapastinel has potential as a new opioid dependence treatment, because it is effective in reducing the withdrawal symptoms and has not shown any side effects," said Julia Ferrante, a student at the University of Villanova who conducted the study. Dr. Cynthia M. Kuhn, professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University.
The research will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapists during the Experimental Biology Meeting in 2019 in Orlando, FL.
Buprenorphine and methadone, the most common drugs used to stop opiate abuse, are problematic because they are opiates themselves and can cause addiction, have unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects and often have to be used for months to avoid recurrences. Ketamine, which is suggested as an alternative, neopioid opioid withdrawal treatment, also has potential for abuse and can cause hallucinations and other negative side effects.
Rapastinel binds to the same receptor as ketamine, but in another place where it has a milder effect.
In this study, researchers have modeled opioid dependence in rats and then tracked signs of withdrawal in rats receiving either rapastinel, ketamine or saline. On the third day, rats receiving rapastin showed significantly less signs of withdrawal from rats receiving ketamine or saline, which showed approximately equal amounts of withdrawal signs.
"Rapastinel opioid dependence is currently only performed on rodents, but if the drug continues to be successful, it can enter clinical trials for use in humans," Ferrante added.