Opioid Abuse, Gambling, Binge Eating: Could a Nasal Spray Help?

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By Staff Reports

(DGIwire) – What do opioid abuse, addictive behaviors like gambling, and binge eating have in common? Each is a chronic relapsing brain disease, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and million of Americans experience at least one of them. Here is a snapshot of each type of these destructive behaviors:

  • Substance abuse disorders: More than 22.7 million people in the U.S. require treatment for abuse of heroin, cannabis, narcotic pain medications and cocaine, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  • Addictive disorders: The National Council on Problem Gambling reports there are two million pathological gamblers in a given year and another four to six million would be considered problem gamblers according to American Psychological Association criteria.
  • Eating disorders: The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders states that more than 30 million Americans struggle with eating disorders. The most common, binge eating disorder, affects eight million people in the U.S.

“These three types of disorders are characterized by compulsive reward-seeking behavior,” says Roger Crystal, MD, Chief Executive Officer of Opiant Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company. “The brain’s reward circuitry is thought to be what regulates their occurrence. Increased levels of certain chemicals called neurotransmitters—such as opioids, endorphins and dopamine—activate the brain’s reward circuitry. However, it has been shown that a class of compounds called opioid antagonists can block the effects of these chemicals and make these types of behaviors less tempting to those who would otherwise obsessively engage in them.”

Opiant is studying the use of opioid antagonist nasal sprays for the treatment of all three classes of disorders. Opiant has already created NARCAN® (naloxone hydrochloride) Nasal Spray, which is being marketed by its partner and licensee, Adapt Pharma.

Opiant is seeking to build on this success by continuing to develop opioid antagonists in nasal spray formulations for a wide range of substance abuse, addictive and eating disorders. One potential advantage of a nasal spray can be its rapid effectiveness—patients can self-administer treatment to disrupt the activation of reward circuitry in their brains and eventually reducing the frequency of unwanted activity or eliminating it altogether. The company has planned a series of clinical studies to begin in late 2016 and going forward.

“In light of the unified brain mechanism driving these behaviors, and the known abilities of a small set of opioid antagonists to block them, we believe there is a strong possibility the next generation of nasal sprays could help a wide number of people,” Dr. Crystal adds.

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