Harnessing the Mood-Boosting Powers of Opioids

Opioids can have miraculous effects on depression and anxiety, as many addicts will attest to.  Now that information is being put to good use.

Enter ALKS-5461, the latest antidepressant in the pipeline.

ALKS contains the opioid buprenorphine combined with the opioid blocker samidorphan.  Buprenorphine stimulates the mu-opioid receptor (the one that produces “the high”) while blocking the misery-inducing kappa opioid receptor.  Samidorphan partially blocks bupe’s effect on the mu receptor, reducing the risk for abuse.

The drug was so effective in clinical trials that it was granted fast-track designation by the FDA.  Despite its potential, ALKS-5461 is not a cure-all and could carry side effects of its own.  It is intended as a second-line (or third-line) treatment for patients whose depression is not helped by mainstream medications.

How many addicts are self-medicating without realizing it?  If an effective antidepressant was available, it could reduce the desire to use harder drugs in this population.  Not to mention the desperate need for new options for patients with treatment-resistant depression.

ALKS-5461 is slated to hit the market in 2016.

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