March 2012 New research suggests that differences in tobacco consumption reflect, in part, differences in the functional efficacy of a specific type of receptor in a pathway of the brain. In animal studies, nicotinic acetylcholine receptors with the α5 subunit played a key role in producing aversive responses to nicotine, thereby dissuading further consumption of the drug.
New research establishes that benzodiazepines cause addiction in a way similar to that of opioids, cannabinoids, and the club drug GHB. The discovery opens the door to designing new benzodiazepines that counteract anxiety but are not addictive.
Sublingual buprenorphine is a safe and effective alternative to methadone for treating opioid dependence during pregnancy, finds the Maternal Opioid Treatment: Human Experimental Research (MOTHER) study, a NIDA-supported clinical trial. Women who received either medication had similar pregnancy and birth outcomes, but infants born to women who received buprenorphine had milder symptoms of neonatal opioid withdrawal.
July 2012 Soluble-film preparations of buprenorphine suppressed heroin abusers’ withdrawal symptoms with no serious side effects in a recent clinical trial. They dissolved more rapidly in the mouth than the pill form of the medication, providing faster relief.
September 2012 New vaccines that aim to promote recovery from cocaine and heroin abuse showed promise in animal testing. Both vaccines induced rats’ immune system to produce high titers of antibodies that inhibit the target drug from reaching the brain. The rats’ behaviors when given access to the target drug indicated that the vaccines reduced the reinforcing effects that, in recovering people, can cause lapses to turn into relapses.
September 2012 Researchers report a significant advance in the search for medications that can suppress pain but avoid opioids’ abuse potential and other undesirable CNS effects. A new compound reduces mouse responses in animal models of neurogenic and chronic inflammatory (e.g., arthritic) pain. The compound, called UB937, enhances the natural pain-killing activity of the neurotransmitter anandamide, and exerts its analgesic effects entirely in peripheral tissues, without entering the brain.
November 2012 NIDA Program Officer Dr. David Thomas speaks about the intertwined problems of pain and prescription opioid abuse, as well as the research supported by NIDA and the National Institutes of Health to address these problems.
December 2012 The immune system has an extraordinary ability to recognize compounds foreign to the body and eliminate them. NIDA-sponsored scientists are working to harness this ability to create vaccines that will protect individuals against the psychogenic and addictive effects of abused drugs. This animation shows one of the most promising strategies, which has already yielded partial success in producing effective vaccines against nicotine, cocaine, and other drugs.
January 2013 Clinical trials of N-acetylcysteine to help people recovering from drug abuse avoid relapse have demonstrated only moderate efficacy. New NIDA-supported research shows that while a low dose of the medication activates receptors associated with lowered drug-seeking behavior, a higher dose appears to activate receptors associated with increased drug-seeking behavior. The result suggests that a medication or combination of medications that stimulate the receptor GluR2/3 and block mGluR5 may work better than N-acetylcysteine alone.
April 2013 Marijuana-dependent outpatients who were treated with the medication gabapentin in a pilot clinical trial reduced their cannabis use more and reported fewer symptoms of drug withdrawal than patients who received a placebo.