Opioid substitute being developed, meanwhile try TENS units

What if there was an alternative to morphine with all its pain-relieving properties but without its dangerous or addictive side effects? An LA Times article more or less asks that question. A better question would be, what if that alternative already existed? Such as TENS units, which offer a non-invasive, drug-free, and virtually side effect-free form of pain management. Notwithstanding the fact that TENS unit supplies have been around for years and are easily available at Discount Medical Supplies, scientists from several universities in the United States spent years developing a new opioid candidate called PZM21, and which they unveiled on Wednesday, August 17th.

The researchers wrote in the journal Nature that PZM21 was as effective – and longer lasting – than morphine in providing pain relief for mice that were placed on a hot surface. Well, at least now we know what the cat was doing on that hot, tin roof in the first place. Moreover, the mice did not find the new compound to be addictive, because they were no more likely to go back to a place where they got the drug than to a similar chamber where they could get a saline solution. Nor did they offer the scientists a cheeseburger to hook them up. Additionally, the mice did not become hyperactive after a dose of PZM21 – which they did after a comparable dose of morphine, and which is considered a sign of addiction – and were less constipated, an opioid side effect (as seen in Trainspotting).

Unfortunately, PZM21 slowed the mice’s breathing to dangerously low levels, which morphine and other opioids also do – but which TENS units do not. So let’s chalk this one up to trial and error. “An ideal opioid would kill pain potently without producing morphine’s harmful respiratory effects, would show sustained efficacy in chronic treatments and would not be addictive,” expert on opiate receptors and molecular biologist Brigitte Kieffer wrote in an accompanying editorial. In that respect, PZM21 is a step “toward this perfect drug.” Good, I’ve been looking for that NIN single for a while.

According to the CDC, overdose deaths involving morphine, methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and other opioid painkillers “have quadrupled since 1999,” as “have sales of these prescription drugs.” Over 165,000 people in the U.S. died from prescription opioid-related overdoses between 1999 and 2014. Furthermore, more than 1,000 people end up in emergency departments every day as a result of prescription opioid misuse. Much of this could be prevented if more doctors and patients at the very least talked about such alternative approaches as TENS units, instead of waiting for some elusive panacea.