Move over, morphine: Researchers at the University of Arizona and the University of New England have developed a new narcotic based on a natural painkiller found in the body that appears in animal studies to be more potent but less addictive. Although researchers have developed many narcotic-type painkillers that rival morphine in strength, few have had the ability to avoid its potential side effects, until now. These side effects include severe constipation, reduced blood pressure and breathing, and addiction.
Drug addicts may prefer some drugs over others, but their brains all have something in common. Whether it’s uppers or downers, addictive drugs tweak the same addiction-related neurons, causing them to become more sensitive, say researchers at Stanford University Medical Center. “What we have identified is a single change caused by drugs of abuse with different molecular mechanisms,” said researcher Robert Malenka.
Researchers have found evidence in animals that the young, adolescent brain may be more sensitive to addictive drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines than either the adult or newborn. The work may help someday lead to a better understanding of how the adolescent human brain adapts to such drugs, and provide clues into changes in the brain that occur during drug addiction.