A substitute for addiction?
Stephen Husbands from the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology is helping to develop new compounds that could prevent addicts relapsing into drug use.
As part of a four-year project with the University of Michigan, the project is funded by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The project will develop an alternative to current addiction treatments such as Methadone and Buprenorphine which are substitutes but do not help patients live a drug-free life.
Originally set up in the University of Bristol by Dr John Lewis, the developer of buprenorphine, the current aim of the group is to provide therapies that will help prevent relapse in those who have managed to stop drug use.
Blocking opiate receptors to prevent relapse
"Ultimately we are looking to target more motivated groups using compounds that block particular opiate receptors," says Dr Husbands. "There is emerging evidence from the clinic that a buprenorphine and naltrexone combination is effective as a relapse prevention agent for opioid abuse, while also decreasing cocaine use in the same individuals. It suggests this combination can help prevent relapse to drug taking behaviour. This is the basis for our current studies."
Delivering the combination in a suitable form is challenging. In one project, the team is looking to provide single chemical entities that mimic the profile produced by the buprenorphine and naltrexone combination.
Practical research applications
A closely related project led by Prof. Richard Guy, Drs Begona Delgado-Charro and Chris Bailey, also from the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, is looking at whether the combination of buprenorphine and naltrexone can be delivered through a skin patch, in a similar nature to a nicotine patch.