MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Christina R. Merritt and Kathryn A. Cunningham
Center for Addiction Research
University of Texas Medical Branch
Galveston, TX 77555
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Opioid use disorder (OUD) is one of the top public health problems in the United States. Overdoses on prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl accounted for 33,091 deaths in the U.S. in 2015 (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm655051e1.htm); each day, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose (https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/). The first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health (https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/ ) observed that more people used prescription opioids than tobacco in 2015. Furthermore, individuals with OUD, the most problematic pattern of opioid abuse, often relapse, particularly in environments associated with past drug use, and new means to help maintain abstinence are needed.
Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) function in the brain, particularly through its cognate 5-HT2C receptor, is an important regulator of the abuse liability of cocaine and other psychostimulants. Previous studies suggested that the weight loss medication and selective 5-HT2C receptor agonist lorcaserin (Belviq®) can curb cocaine- and nicotine-seeking in preclinical models, even when tested in tempting environments. We administered lorcaserin to rats who were trained to take the powerful painkiller oxycodone (OxyContin®), a prescription opioid currently approved for treatment of acute and chronic pain with characteristically high abuse potential. Lorcaserin suppressed oxycodone intake as well as the drug-seeking behaviors observed when rats were exposed to cues such as the lights and sounds previously associated with drug intake. Taken together, these findings highlights the therapeutic potential for lorcaserin to extend abstinence and enhance recovery from OUD.