More than 116 million Americans suffer from chronic pain significant enough to seek medical care. Although the fundamentals of chronic pain are generally understood, the psychosocial effects, including lack of appetite, sleep deprivation, and depression, present a more difficult challenge. Therefore, in order to treat the underlying cause—controlling the chronic pain—medical professionals include opioids as part of their patients’ regimens.
What are Opioids?
Opioids are a prescription pain medication that relieve pain by attaching to specific receptors found in the brain and other organs throughout the body. When opioids attach to those receptors, they block the signals leading to the patient’s perception, or feelings, of pain. Side effects of opioids include drowsiness, confusion, nausea, and, depending on the dosage, depressed respiration; other patients may experience a euphoric response. Some who experience the euphoric effects may seek to intensify that experience by abusing their prescriptions—taking more than prescribed or taking the drug more often than prescribed—leading to addiction and further abuse.
Abuse and misuse of opioids has become a serious public health concern. Abuse rates quadrupled in the 10-year period between 1990-2000, and more than 70% of illegal users obtain their drugs through theft, illegal purchase, or from family or friends. Addicts can achieve their “high” by ingesting an excess number of these pain pills or by crushing them and then snorting, smoking or injecting the altered drugs. Therefore, the premise of Abuse-Deterrent Opioids (ADOs) is to effectively deliver the needed medication to legitimate patients while deterring potential abuse. For example, if the active ingredient in the drug is crushed, it may form irritating crumbled chunks to deter snorting, or when the active ingredient is mixed with liquid, the combination forms a gel which cannot then be injected.
FDA-Approved Targiniq ER
Targiniq ER is the newest FDA-approved ADO that provides effective pain control while reducing the potential for abuse. A combination of oxycodone and naloxone, Targiniq ER delivers the powerful pain-relieving oxycodone but blocks the euphoric effects when the pills are crushed or dissolved. Incorporating naloxone, a drug similar to morphine which blocks the opiate receptors in the nervous system, renders Targiniq ER a less attractive opioid for abuse than oxycodone alone.
Targiniq ER is an effective tool against oxycodone abuse, even though it does not completely prevent abuse. When Targiniq ER is taken by mouth, the abuse-deterrent, naloxone, does not absorb well and, consequently, has little impact on abusers who absorb the drug orally. Consequently, taking too much Targiniq ER, whether in one dose or in multiple doses too close together, can still result in overdose and, ultimately, death.
The approval of Targiniq ER is a step forward in the development of abuse-deterrent opioids. Be sure to monitor the release of this and similar drugs. For more information about chronic pain relief and other pain medications visit our Pain Conditions page.