Neurotechnology

Probuphine: Synopsis of a New Technology in the Face of Opioid Abuse

Mallika Pajjuri


Introduction

Opium and its derivatives including morphine and oxycodone have been subject to scrutiny in the past few years as a result of their drastic effects upon society. It has ingrained itself in the lives of millions of people since its introduction in the Neolithic Era, and using it became a common practice in countries such as India and Greece. In popular media, opium has been romanticized as a slumber-inducing drug, placing its users into a nebulous haze, luring users in with its earth-transcending effects into the sublime. However, opium abuse has turned from a glamorized endeavor to a widespread epidemic, affecting 2.1 million people across the United States (Volkow, par. 2). Delineated by the recently infamous image of Rhonda Pasek, a grandma who overdosed on heroin while sitting in the passenger seat of a car, the usage of opioid derivatives is a burgeoning problem worldwide, yet researchers have yet to find an extremely effective treatment process.  Most current treatment processes merely revolve around aiding the recovery. However, a novel subdermal implant, called Probuphine, has increased in global popularity, and its effectiveness is positively rerouting our knowledge about opioid addiction treatment.

 

How Opium Affects the Brain

    In 1973, using a radioactive, synthetic opiate called naloxone, researchers were able to identify a specific opiate receptor within the human brain, allowing for scientists to further understand the processes of opiate abuse. Opiates, classified as depressants, tend to mimic naturally occurring opiate-like molecules in the brain called endorphins, activating endorphin receptors within neurons [1]. However, this artificial activation of endorphin receptors during opiate addiction is overproduced, and, to compensate for this overproduction, the brain halts its excretion of pain-reducing neurotransmitters, often causing opiate abusers extreme chronic pain.

Image of a Mu Opioid Receptor (http://flipper.diff.org/app/items/info/7372)

    As it is a depressant, opium tends to affect a person drastically, allowing them to function in a sluggish, heavy manner, often sedating or relaxing the user. Immediately following opiate usage, users enter a trance of pure euphoria, feeling intense pleasure and acknowledging their extreme well being, but the detrimental side effects, such as slowed breathing, impaired coordination, and slurred speech, engulf the pleasures [2]. In reference to long term effects, opiate abusers, using drugs such as Vicodin and OxyContin, are at the risk of mental impairment, sadness, and depression since the brain signals the stop of endorphin release, depriving users of the neurotransmitter’s “feel-good” benefits. Both female and male users can exhibit loss of sex drive, infertility, and constipation as well. Female opiate abusers, on the other hand tend to over time acquire irregular menstrual cycles.

 

The Science Behind Probuphine

    Probuphine is a fairly novel treatment alternative for opiate abuse as it is the first buprenorphine implant approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.  With a lasting period of six months, probuphine is designed to provide a constant dosage of buprenorphine to the patient. This method is extremely unique within itself, since buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist: it partially activates mu opioid receptors, but still restricts the effects of opioid abuse [3]. Since it is a partial opioid agonist, it effectively aides rehabilitation patients, fulfilling their cravings while lowering their dependency on these drugs.

 

Probuphine’s Effects Upon the Drug Rehabilitation Processes

    Probuphine, after many tests, has been acknowledged one of the most highly effective and relatively convenient opiate abuse treatment options [4]. It does not require the treatment of dependent patients in a primary care setting since acquiring and utilizing one merely involves visiting a physician’s office [5]. In addition, according to a study conducted by JAMA Internal Medicine, Probuphine patients fared better when utilizing the technology for the complete six months rather than diminishing usage in the middle of the time period [6]. Thus, Probuphine’s existence in the treatment realm will likely continue to expand and eventually become a widespread treatment option.


References


  1. Fiellen, David; Schottenfeld, Richard; Cutter, Christopher; Moore, Brent; Barry, Declan; Connor, Patrick. 2014.Primary Care–Based Buprenorphine Taper vs Maintenance Therapy for Prescription Opioid Dependence. JAMA Internal Medicine. http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1916910. Retrieved: (19/09/2016)

  2. Thorough Technical Explanation of Buprenorphine. The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment. https://www.naabt.org/education/technical_explanation_buprenorphine.cfm. Retrieved:(19/09/2016).

  3. (26/05/2016). FDA approves first buprenorphine implant for treatment of opioid dependence .http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm503719.htm. Retrieved: (20/09/2016)

  4. What exactly is Buprenorphine? . The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment. https://www.naabt.org/faq_answers.cfm?ID=2. Retrieved: (22/09/16).

  5. Health Effects of Heroin and Opiates. NZ Drug Foundation. https://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/heroin-opiates/health-effects. Retrieved: (20/09/2016).

  6. Hagaman, Jennifer. Opiates on the Brain. http://web.csulb.edu/~cwallis/483/opiates_on_the_brain.html. Retrieved: (19/09/2016).

Mallika Pajjuri

Mallika Pajjuri


hey! my name is mallika pajjuri, and i am currently a junior at dublin high school. you can find me on instagram @malliaka.paijjuri. looking forward to meeting you all!