Opioid Drug Abuse and Modulation of Immune Function.
A recent review article has pieced together part the mechanism behind the fact that opioids have immune system suppression properties. Morphine, a popular opioid, and one of the main actors in the modern opiate epidemic of dependence and addiction interacts with factors within the immune system that break down the coordination of the two main cells involved in innate and adaptive immunity. A disruption in one of the primary immune defense operators, this action may leave users susceptible to a multitude of illnesses. This review highlights the importance of understanding the mechanism of opioid-related immunosuppression so that physicians can better treat patients and the public is more aware of the risks. Addicts, especially, should be made aware of the risks posed by illicit intravenous drug use.
A recent study has revealed that the co-activation of mu-opioid receptors and cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) results in the attenuation of the response seen when each receptor type is activated on its own. The decreased response of the two receptor types during co-activation has been implicated in negatively modulating neuritogenesis (the process of generating new brain nerve cells). Neuritogenesis is important for the cells’ ability to receive and project signals leading the researchers to call for more research in order to elucidate the effect this may have on addiction.
The fact that there is co-interaction between opioid receptors and cannabinoid receptors is also interesting to inform the discussion of the place that cannabinoid actors may have in supporting the healing of those who are dependent or addicted to opiate medications.