When someone hears the word Vicadin or morphine they might often think about the negative effects of these drugs as they are extremely addictive and are also used recreationally for their psychotropic effects. A great number of people have been prescribed an opioid painkiller such as Vicadin, Codeine, or Oxycodone for various different reasons such as a post-surgery drug to ease the pain. Due to this fact, it is very important that our society knows just what is at risk when using these powerful painkillers. These painkillers are used enough in our society today that it’s not new to hear about opioids being very addicting and patients developing both a dependence and tolerance to the drug. Many people might ask, if it is known that using opioids can cause negative side effects such as dependence and tolerance, why are they still prescribed so frequently?
Opioids are such effective painkillers for many reasons. One main reason is that they have no analgesic pain ceiling, meaning they can block all pain. This is extremely important with serious surgeries that come with extreme pain during recovery. They are also used so frequently because they don’t have any negative effects on your liver, unlike the commonly used pain relievers like Advil.
Previous studies conducted in attempts to identify why opioids are so addictive have been focused on the dopamine system. This is mainly due to the fact that most addictive drugs increase the submission of dopamine, leading scientists to believe that the dopamine system would be involved in opioid addiction as well. However, in recent studies, scientists have been diving into the glutamate system as there has been recent evidence in the past five years that glutamate plays a roll in opioid addiction. Throughout the paper, “The role of glutamate and its receptors in mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic region in opioid addiction” many experiments are outlined that suggest glutamate is in fact an important piece to the puzzle describing opioid addiction.
Glutamate is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. Glutamate binds to its glutamate receptors, ultimately opening a channel allowing ions to flow through and trigger an excitatory current. How is this abundance of glutamate and its respective receptors related to the development of an addiction to opioids?
After reading and analyzing the topic paper in class, it became very clear as to how glutamate is related to drug addiction. The paper did a great job laying out all of the specific pieces of evidence and just what they did to prove this relationship. One of the main studies that our paper focused on was the use of glutamate receptor antagonists, which essentially block the receptors from doing their job in excitation. There were many specific instances where scientists tested the effects of these glutamate receptor antagonists on addiction to opioids and they found that use of these antagonists successfully regulates drug tolerance and dependence.
These findings are very exciting as it would be ideal to be able to control the addiction of opioids, since they are extremely effective and prescribed so frequently. Although its seems as if scientists are on the right track as they explore glutamate receptor antagonists and their aid in preventing addiction, further research is needed due to the fact that glutamate receptors affect many different processes in the body and blocking them could cause effects other than suppressing addiction.