May 11, 2017 / Modified jun 22, 2017 4:11 p.m.

Episode 79: Battling Chronic Pain

Research into new therapies for chronic pain.

Pain Medication, Opiods spot Many people rely on opioids to manage chronic pain. (PHOTO: AZPM Staff)


Chronic pain affects more than 100 million adults in the U.S. alone. When our peripheral nerves are injured by trauma, disease, or toxins, they can become over-excited, resulting in debilitating chronic "neuropathic" pain. That pain may then lead to substance abuse, depression and even suicide. Todd Vanderah's research team at UA is addressing the fact that neuropathic pain does not respond well to existing therapies, which include standard analgesics such as aspirin and acetaminophen, and opioid drugs such as morphine and oxycodone which have the complication of potential addiction and abuse.

In studying the mechanisms underlying the neuropathic pain of metastatic-induced bone cancer, they have discovered that a particular non-mind altering (non-rewarding) CB2 cannabinoid significantly relieves the pain. An additional exciting finding is that the CB2 receptors are found to actually reduce the rewarding effects of opioid drugs, thus also opening the door to developing new treatments to reduce the problem of addiction to opioids.

In This Episode

Todd W. Vanderah, PhD, Professor and Head, Department of Pharmacology
Leslie Tolbert, PhD, Regents' Professor in Neuroscience

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