MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Allison White, a Ph.D. candidate at West Virginia University School of Medicine’s Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, will be conducting a study on how to make opioids safer to use.
White’s work will attempt to understand the pharmacological effects and the behavior of effects, specifically for the mu opioid receptor, which is associated with opioid pain relief.
“Not only does the mu receptor activate opioids relief from pain,” White said, “but it also activates euphoria, which is how people get addicted.”
Because of this association, White’s project will test a new hypothesis: delivering common opioid painkillers with a kappa opioid receptor. White believes that this could decrease opioids addictive properties without decreasing their painkilling properties.
White will be studying kappa opioid receptors, such as nalfurafine, to see if they will be able to offset the mu receptor. Kappa opioid receptors have resulted in less problematic side effects but has also been linked to psychosis.
White also wants to look at different opioids and to see if a combination of treatments could be effective pain killers that don’t cause addiction.
“An alternative to the current painkiller issue would be beneficial for society,” White said. “A good, non-addictive pain killer can treat acute pain and restore behavior for users.”
White received a two-year, $108,000 dissertation award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for the study, titled "Pre-clinical assessments of dose-sparing and anti-addictive adjuvants to prevent the future abuse of opioid analgesics.”
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