Neuroscientist Patrick Rothwell, Ph.D., answers some commonly asked questions about opioid addiction, like what causes dependency, how do opioids affect the brain, and most importantly: what makes them so addictive?
The often devastating misuse of prescription opioids has slowly caught the media and public’s attention in recent years. It is estimated that opioid addiction affected nearly 2.5 million adults in the U.S. in 2014. Some estimates suggest more than 44,000 drug overdose-related deaths occurred in 2013 and nearly one-third of those deaths were attributed to prescription opioids. Furthermore, prescription opioid abuse can often lead to heroin use (and eventual addiction) when addicts can no longer get prescription medication and/or they move on to cheaper, easily accessible and stronger heroin.
Tragically, an estimated 40 people die every day from opioid drug overdoses.
The University of Minnesota is doing its part to take on this public health crisis and recently hosted Pain. Pill. Problem., an all-day conference that examined the many facets of Minnesota’s issues with opiate abuse.
According to a recent article in Yahoo news, California Governor Jerry Brown approved raising the legal age to buy tobacco for smoking, dipping, chewing and vaping from 18 to 21.
California is hoping that increasing the legal age to purchase tobacco will lower the addiction rate of nicotine. According to Dorothy Hatsukami, Ph.D., a professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Psychiatry who focuses on tobacco addictions and cancer prevention, young people are more susceptible to addictions because their brains are still developing.
In a recent review published in Nature, Mustafa al’Absi, Ph.D., director of the Duluth Medical Research Institute at the Medical School, Duluth campus, and other authors, outlined recommendations to shape the global mental health agenda.
“Mental health and substance abuse disorders have profound effects on overall health,” al’Absi said. “They are becoming a pressing global and local burden.”
Opioid addiction is a crippling problem in society, with an estimated 9 percent of Americans abusing opiates at some point in their life. In Minnesota, opiate overdose deaths have more than tripled since 2000.
Overcoming addiction is extremely challenging, and the risk of relapse persists. A new study from the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Neuroscience identified a potential target for preventing morphine relapse in mice, which brings researchers closer to providing a way for recovering addicts to stay drug-free.