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Targeting delta opioid receptor may reduce pain without causing addiction

Science Spotlight

March 27, 2014

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at NIH funded a new study researching the delta opioid receptor (DOR), a pain receptor located under the skin that regulates minor skin sensations like touch and warming.  For people with allodynia, a condition where minor sensations can cause severe pain, targeting DORs with medication can reduce pain.

Medications acting on these DORs interfere with the communication between sensory neurons and spinal cord and brain neurons, likely resulting in reduced pain. This might be a promising alternate therapeutic strategy by which opioids can reduce pain without causing side effects such as addiction.

For a copy of the study summary (published online February 27), go to: http://www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S0896-6273%2814%2900075-0.  For information on drug abuse and pain, go to www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2012/11/qa-dr-david-thomas.

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at media@nida.nih.gov or 301-443-6245.

Opiates binding to opiate receptorsThis is a close-up view of a synapse in the nucleus accumbens. Three types of neurons participate in opiate action: one that releases dopamine (on the left), a neighboring terminal (on the right) that contains a different neurotransmitter (probably GABA for those who would like to know), and the post-synaptic cell that contains dopamine receptors (in pink). Show that opiates bind to opiate receptors (yellow) on the neighboring terminal and this sends a signal to the dopamine terminal to release more dopamine. [In case someone asks how, one theory is that opiate receptor activation decreases GABA release, which normally inhibits dopamine release, so dopamine release is increased.]

NIDA Press Office

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found at www.drugabuse.gov, which is now compatible with your smartphone, iPad or tablet. To order publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA’s DrugPubs research dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or email requests to drugpubs@nida.nih.gov. Online ordering is available at drugpubs.drugabuse.gov. NIDA’s media guide can be found at www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/dear-journalist, and its easy-to-read website can be found at www.easyread.drugabuse.gov. You can follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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    NIDA. (2014, March 27). Targeting delta opioid receptor may reduce pain without causing addiction. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2014/03/targeting-delta-opioid-receptor-may-reduce-pain-without-causing-addiction

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