According to Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D., Director of NIDA, "This discovery opens up a new avenue of
research in the development of medications that maximize the pain relieving qualities of drugs such as
morphine -- critical in the treatment of cancer patients, for example -- while minimizing their negative
effects. Additionally, this research may eventually help us to further understand how and why
individuals develop drug tolerance and experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms," Dr. Leshner
added. While morphine is the principal drug used for controlling severe pain for patients after surgery,
it can cause such undesirable effects as nausea, constipation, respiratory problems, and physical
This new evidence that OFQ and its receptor may play a role in opioid function may lead to new
research exploring balance or homeostasis of the opioid system. If there is an imbalance or
overactivity in one part of the brain, a compensatory change usually occurs to counterbalance it.
These new findings raise interesting possibilities for developing therapeutic agents that act to
compensate for the effects of the OFQ receptor. "Therapeutic drugs designed to block OFQ
receptors may allow physicians to use less morphine to relieve pain because the endogenous system
opposing morphine's actions would be blocked. We are hoping that an antagonist to the OFQ
receptor will make morphine more efficacious so patients could benefit from its pain relieving effects
without experiencing the unwanted side effects," Dr. Grandy said. He added that blocking the OFQ
receptor may decrease the irritability, anxiety and nausea characteristic of heroin withdrawal.
This work was supported by NIDA, the National Institute on Neurological Diseases and Stroke, and
the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, all components of the National Institutes of
Health. NIDA is the primary Federal agency for the conduct and support of research to increase
knowledge and develop strategies to deal with the health problems and issues associated with drug
abuse and addiction. NIDA has been supporting the study of opiates since its inception because of
their role as the most powerfully effective analgesics.
For additional information on this study and other NIDA research, call the NIDA Press Office at
(301) 443-6245. Copies of NIDA Media Advisories and other information are available on the NIDA Home Page at http://www.nida.nih.gov.