While 60,000 people died in 2016 as a result of drug overdoses, dealing with the opioid epidemic has become a focal point of both government and healthcare. A recent article from The Guardian revealed a breakthrough that brings researchers one-step closer to non-addictive opioid alternatives for treating pain.
Researchers studied a receptor protein that interacts with opioids in the brain, specifically its structure as it binds with morphine molecules. The protein is called the kappa opioid receptor, and it’s just one of four that interacts with opioids. However, it is not linked to addiction risk or overdose deaths, but understanding its structure could help scientists develop safer drugs that only bind to that particular protein.