A new study conducted at the University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles has found that a missing enzyme found in the body is the reason behind a drug addict’s dependency on prescription pain killers.
Why are some people more vulnerable to drug addiction than others? Everyone’s body produces its own natural opioids. According to the research, an addict’s dependency on pain killers begins when synthetically manufactured opioids such as oxycontin, morphine and codeine change the chemical balance of the brain.
Mice were used as the animal model of the study. The research team eliminated an enzyme called prohormone convertase 2 (PC2). In certain areas of the brain, this substance converts pre-hormonal chemicals into active hormones.
Researchers analyzed the effects of morphine on the brain. The study found that concentrations of MOR—the mu opioid receptor in the brain that morphine normally attaches to were higher in mice lacking PC2.
“In this study, we found that PC2 knockout mice have higher levels of MOR in brain regions related to drug addiction,” said Dr. Theodore Friedman, Chairman of the Internal Medicine Department at the University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. “We conclude that PC2 regulates endogenous opioids involved in the addiction response and in its absence, up-regulation of MOR expression occurs in key brain areas related to drug addiction.”
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