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Non-Habit Forming Painkiller to Hit the Market Soon

It is common knowledge that pain killers tend to be some of the most abused prescription medications available today. Opioids, specifically are some of the worst with regard to habit formation, leading to addiction. Opioids are part of a group of pain killers that include the likes of Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet that work by suppressing the perception of pain in the central nervous system. Recipients develop an increased pain tolerance. The drugs also produce a sense of euphoria that lends itself to dependency.

To gain perspective on just how addictive opioids can be, consider that there were 2 million people last month who were reliant on the medication, according to Dr. Petros Levounis, director of The Addiction Institute of New York. Figures for heroin use were only 400,000 individuals by comparison. Opioids can also increase ones risk for heart disease, bone fractions, and potentially even death.

However, a new non-addictive pain-killer is on the horizon. Researchers at Stony Brook University say that their research has spawned a drug, currently undergoing clinical trials in England and Canada that will be introduced to the U.S. market soon. The team pinpointed a sodium ion channel involved with transmitting pain and helped develop a drug that would block it. The new drug offers hope for those suffering from arthritis, cancer, migraines, muscle aches and other chronic pain.

Traditional opiates work by distorting pain signals sent from peripheral nerves to the central nervous system. They alter judgment and can leave many addicted. The new drug, however, would not allow the pain signals to be transferred at all. Researchers say that the pain signals never even reach the central nervous system. Instead, they are fielded by the peripheral nervous system, which is why the new drug would not be habit-forming and is said to have no side effects.

Critics are not so quick to jump on the band wagon. Dr. Levounis is also skeptical. He adds that we have been promised these things before and cites drugs like Ambien, Ultram and Viagra as examples that were originally touted as non-addictive also. However, Dr. Levounis does think the research is a step in the right direction.

He claims that opioid painkillers are extremely addictive and states that the public needs to be aware. He even goes so far to say that their use to manage pain has been one of the worst decisions in the history of medicine. Unfortunately, the negative side effects associated with many drugs today quickly overshadow any positive impact they may have had on society.

Posted on Mar 02, 2011

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