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Pinwheel flower points researchers to ‘new’ opioid receptor

September 9, 2021 | Anesthesiology News

A flower used in traditional medicine as an analgesic has led researchers at two institutes to collaborate on targeting a newly identified receptor of endogenous opioid peptides, with the goal of developing a unique molecule to treat chronic pain. Scientists from the Immuno-Pharmacology and Interactomics group at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) joined with the Center for Drug Discovery at RTI International in an investigation of the traditional medicine conolidine, which is derived from the pinwheel flower (also known as crepe jasmine, Tabernaemontana divaricata).

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Opioids rip through U.S. workforce, with deaths at record level

June 17, 2021 | Bloomberg

Before the Covid-19 pandemic was the drug epidemic. Its relentless toll added a record 90,722 overdose deaths in the U.S. for the year through November 2020, a grim number obscured by coronavirus casualties that recently topped 600,000, according to federal data released Wednesday. As the virus transfixed the nation, the drug crisis spread to largely untouched parts of the country -- exacerbated by the recession and millions of job losses. Not only stores and restaurants shuttered: Counseling services moved online, inpatient clinics closed and mobile clinics pulled back. Without support, many Americans relapsed and some turned to drugs for the first time.

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Scientists discover SARS-CoV-2 infection can relieve pain – may help explain COVID-19 spread

June 4, 2021 | SciTechDaily

Research shows SARS-CoV-2 promotes pain relief through the receptor neuropilin-1, which gives scientists a new target for non-opioid pain therapeutics and offers one possible explanation for the unrelenting spread of COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can relieve pain, according to a new study by University of Arizona Health Sciences researchers. The finding may explain why nearly half of all people who get COVID-19 experience few or no symptoms, even though they are able to spread the disease, according to the study’s corresponding author Rajesh Khanna, PhD, a professor in the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Pharmacology.

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Chronic pain: an update on burden, best practices, and new advances

May 29, 2021 | The Lancet

This summary paper in The Lancet surveys the challenges and best practices currently directing the treatment of chronic pain. Chronic pain exerts an enormous personal and economic burden, affecting more than 30% of people worldwide according to some studies. Unlike acute pain, which carries survival value, chronic pain might be best considered to be a disease, with treatment (eg, to be active despite the pain) and psychological (eg, pain acceptance and optimism as goals) implications. Pain can be categorised as nociceptive (from tissue injury), neuropathic (from nerve injury), or nociplastic (from a sensitised nervous system), all of which affect work-up and treatment decisions at every level; however, in practice there is considerable overlap in the different types of pain mechanisms within and between patients, so many experts consider pain classification as a continuum.

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Fentanyl has spread west and overdoses are surging

April 15, 2021 | The Wall Street Journal

Long a scourge on the East Coast, fentanyl is now driving a rapid increase in overdose deaths in the Western U.S. In the Seattle area, overdose deaths involving fentanyl were up 57% in 2020 over the previous year, according to data from the county medical examiner. Preliminary data show deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl rose 162% in the Las Vegas area last year. In Los Angeles County, a recent report blamed fentanyl for a 26% jump in overdose deaths among the homeless population during the first seven months of 2020. The problem is particularly acute in San Francisco, where a record 708 people died of drug overdoses in 2020, a 61% increase from the previous year. By comparison, 254 people died of Covid-19 in the city last year.

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