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Journal Article


Srivastava B, Gold MS. Cerebrum 2018; 2018(ePub): ePub.


(Copyright © 2018, Dana Press)






Trying to kick drug addiction without medicines is said to be like relying on willpower to overcome diabetes or asthma. Enter naltrexone, which has been around since 1984 and reduces the cravings for drugs and alcohol by fine-tuning the brain's chemical reward system. Why has it recently increased in popularity? How does it compare to similar strategies? Has it made a difference? Our authors, who have long studied addiction and the brain, confront a drug and alcohol addiction problem that today kills more Americans each day than gun violence or car accidents.

T he opioid epidemic is one of the foremost public health crises in the United States. A recent analysis from Stanford University suggested that without any changes in currently available treatment, prevention, and public health approaches, we should expect to have 510,000 deaths from prescription opioids and street heroin from 2016 to 2025 in the US.1 Both the lay press and scientific literature are full of proposals, analyses, and potential solutions. Most focus on expanding access to and dissemination of overdose reversal treatment (naloxone), and the medication-assisted treatment (MAT) drugs methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Obviously, expanding the availability of naloxone and MAT drugs are important steps that can be readily implemented, especially using an approach similar to what was done during the HIV epidemic.2,3 But in addition to such efforts, we must invest in research to develop new treatments informed by neuroscientific evidence.

Naltrexone’s Evolution

A comprehensive discussion of naltrexone should be understood within the context of naloxone, which is considered its short-acting version based on relative half-lives (three hours for naloxone, 13 hours for oral naltrexone). When first synthesized, naloxone was a novel medication as well as a cornerstone of research into the pharmacology of the opioid system. Naloxone successfully competes against opioids to bind to the “Mu” opioid receptor on neurons, completely blocking the opioid’s downstream effects. As a “Mu opioid receptor (MOR) antagonist,” it reverses the potentially deadly effects of opioid overdose...


Language: en


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