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Existing Anti-Gout Medication Effective in Reducing Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal

Jan 31, 2017 09:12 AM EST
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A new study from the University of Calgary's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) and Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) revealed that an existing anti-gout medication could alleviate the symptoms of opioid withdrawal in rodents.

The study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, showed that the anti-gout medication called probenecid could effectively block the pannexin-1 channel. Pannexin-1 channel is located throughout the body, including the brain and spinal cord. The researchers found that the pannexin-1 is responsible for producing withdrawal symptoms in rodent models, making it a therapeutic target in opiate withdrawal.

"Opioid withdrawal is aversive, debilitating and can compel individuals to continue using the drug in order to prevent these symptoms," said Tuan Trang, PhD, a neuroscientist and assistant professor at UCVM and the Cumming School of Medicine, in a press release. "In our study, we effectively alleviated withdrawal symptoms in rodents, which could have important implications for patients that may wish to decrease or stop their use of these medications."

For the study, the researchers focused on morphine and fentanyl. They looked specifically at the pannexin-1 channels located at the key immune cells in the nervous systems. The researchers found that activation of the pannexin-1 channel drives the release of ATP from microglia during morphine withdrawal.

Due to the participation of the pannexin-1 channel in the activation of opioid withdrawal symptoms, the researchers tried to use an anti-gout medication that is known to have non-selective pannexin-1 blocking effects. The researchers discovered that probenecid is effective in reducing the severity of withdrawal symptom in opioid-dependent rodents. Additionally, the researchers found that the anti-gout medication did not affect the ability of the opioid to relieve pain.

Severe withdrawal symptoms have become one of the main reasons why opioid-dependent individuals find it hard to stop their addiction. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classify opioids as the main driver of drug overdose deaths.. In 2015, more than 33,000 deaths were linked to opioid overdose.

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