College Honors Program

Title

The Potential for Non-Addictive Analgesics to Address the Opioid Crisis

Date of Creation

5-1-2022

Document Type

Campus Access Only

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Alexis Hill

Abstract

Opioids are a broad category of analgesic compounds that interact with opioid receptors throughout the nervous system, and currently, the most effective medications used in the treatment of severe pain are μ-opioid receptor (MOR) agonists such as morphine. However, the abuse liability and the risk of overdose associated with prototypical opioids have contributed to the current opioid epidemic, and this public health crisis has stimulated research for safer analgesics. This thesis overviews emerging opioid-based strategies that can be utilized in the development of efficacious and safer analgesic compounds; these strategies include (i) activating specific cellular signaling cascades, (ii) targeting different types or specific combinations of opioid receptors, and (iii) enhancing the natural activity of the endogenous opioid system. The biological mechanisms as well as the expected patient experience and medication adherence are taken into consideration in all proposals. The use of adjunct compounds that can be prescribed alongside opioids to optimize pain relief and minimize adverse effects is also discussed. Several novel analgesics are promising, but because additional data are still necessary to establish confidence in their safety and efficacy, future research directions will be explored throughout this thesis.

Comments

Reader: Daniel Bitran

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