A new study has found that a common nausea and vomiting-treating drug can be used to minimize, or even prevent severe opiiod withdrawal symptoms.
The research team from Stanford University School of Medicine have found that addicts of heroin and prescription drugs such as codeine and morphine might be able to break their dependence without severe withdrawal symptoms or side effects with the help of drug, ondansetron.
"Opioid abuse is rising at a faster rate than any other type of illicit drug use, yet only about a quarter of those dependent on opioids seek treatment," said Dr Larry F. Chu, assistant professor of anesthesia at the School of Medicine and lead author of the study
"One barrier to treatment is that when you abruptly stop taking the drugs, there is a constellation of symptoms associated with withdrawal," he added.
Chu described opioid withdrawal as a "bad flu," characterized by agitation, insomnia, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
Chu said that current methods used for treatment are not completely effective.
"What we need is a magic bullet," said Chu.
"Something that treats the symptoms of withdrawal, does not lead to addiction and can be taken at home," he added.
The researchers found that drug ondansetron can block certain receptors involved in withdrawal symptoms.
During the study, the researchers recruited eight non-opioid-dependent humans. In one session, they received only a single large dose of morphine, and in another session that was separated by at least week, they took ondansetron in combination with morphine.
They found that humans treated with ondansetron before or while receiving morphine showed a significant reduction in withdrawal signs compared with when they received morphine but not ondansetron.
The study is published in the Journal of Pharmacogenetics and Genomics.