Can this obesity drug treat opioid dependency?

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Lorcaserin appears to reduce the use of and craving for oxycodone.

The prescription weight-loss medication, lorcaserin ( Belviq ), may hold promise as a novel therapy for opioid dependency. In a pre-clinical study published in ACS Chemical Neuroscience , lorcaserin was shown to reduce the use of and craving for oxycodone.

Lorcaserin acts on the serotonin system, altering the chemical signals that affect satiety. Serotonin regulates the brain circuitry involved in drug reward and cue reactivity, particularly through activating serotonin 2C receptors. Previous work found that lorcaserin decreased the number of times rats would complete a simple task to earn a dose of cocaine.

In the current study, the same team of researchers trained rats to self-administer oxycodone while exposed to specific lights and sounds that created a drug-taking environment. When oxycodone was withdrawn and reintroduced, lorcaserin rats self-administered less oxycodone and reacted less strongly to cues associated with taking the drug.

“The effectiveness of lorcaserin in reducing oxycodone seeking and craving highlights the therapeutic potential for lorcaserin in the treatment of opioid use disorder,” said lead author, Kathryn Cunningham, director of the Center for Addiction Research at the University of Texas Medical Branch. “We plan more studies to better understand how drugs like lorcaserin can help us stem the tide of addiction in America.”

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