What is it about?

Morphine and other strong opioid pain-killers are used to alleviate moderate to severe pain that may occur following surgery or major trauma, as well as for the relief of chronic cancer-related pain. Apart from pain relief, opioid pain-killers also produce an array of side-effects including nausea and vomiting, sedation, respiratory depression, constipation, tolerance, and addiction/abuse liability. Of these, respiratory depression is of the most concern owing to the potential for fatal consequences. In the general community, opioid overdose or co-administration of opioids with alcohol or other medications that depress the central nervous system, may evoke respiratory depression. In this paper, we review the latest research aimed at identifying non-opioid respiratory stimulants that can reverse opioid-induced respiratory depression but without diminishing opioid-induced pain relief.

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Why is it important?

The opioid epidemic, particularly in the US, has focused attention on the discovery of non-opioid respiratory stimulants to reverse opioid-induced respiratory depression whilst retaining pain relief. To date, only a few molecules have entered clinical development and so considerable work remains before respiratory stimulant molecules with promising research data in animals or humans, become available for use in clinical practice.



Professor Maree Therese Smith
University of Queensland

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This page is a summary of: Countering opioid-induced respiratory depression by non-opioids that are respiratory stimulants, F1000Research, February 2020, Faculty of 1000, Ltd.,
DOI: 10.12688/f1000research.21738.1.
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