Dealing with chronic pain doesn’t just hurt physically, it hurts mentally.

According to a new study, researchers are trying to develop a drug that can help ones who have depression or feelings lethargy as a result of having chronic pain.

“ ‘We’re in the midst of an opioid epidemic, and the euphoria associated with opioids is a major driver of opioid dependence…by targeting the emotional aspects of pain, we hope to make pain less debilitating so that patients won’t crave the emotional high they get from opioids,’” stated Jose Moron-Concepcion, a senior in the study (“Blunting pain’s”, 2019).

The researchers analyzed the kappa receptor in an individual’s brain, which is known to invoke feelings of sadness – if one were to dampen the effects of these receptors, there’s hope that it could curb the negative emotional effects associated with pain (“Blunting pain’s”, 2019).

To test this, rats were exposed to a substance that caused inflammation – it was found the rats in pain were less likely to work for a reward (such as food) than those who weren’t in pain; this finding specifically measured the emotional effects of pain by analyzing level of motivation (“Blunting pain’s”, 2019).

Those that were treated with the kappa opioid blocker drug were able to regain their motivation and pulled the lever to receive food. “ ‘By blocking dynorphin release, we were able to restore motivation in the animals despite the fact that we did not completely eliminate their pain’,” (“Blunting pain’s”, 2019).

Reference: Washington University School of Medicine. (2019, March 13). Blunting pain’s emotional component: Blocking a type of opioid receptor restores motivation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 16, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190313132254.htm