Stanford Team Receives Grant to Further Research of Opioid Abuse Neurobiology

March 9, 2023

Jason Tucciarone, MD, PhD

Dr. Tucciarone’s project, "A patch circuit dissection of opioid abuse," aims to define the role of non-canonical direct pathway neurons in models of opioid abuse and investigate the properties of patch networks in the valence of opioid withdrawal, consumption, maintenance, extinction, and reinstatement.

“This work will be among the first to study [mu opioid receptor] (+) patch circuits in the context of opioid use disorder,” writes Dr. Tucciarone in the research abstract. “The hope is that through this new lens of functional organization, insights will be revealed that in the longer term will lead to new therapies in treating the devastating health and societal impact of opioid use disorders.”

The work will add to existing scholarship on the neurobiology of opioid addiction to help identify new therapies for treatment, especially considering the high relapse rates among individuals who use medication assisted therapies for treatment of opioid use disorder. The opioid crisis is a nationwide epidemic affecting millions of Americans with addictions and tens of thousands who die from opioid-related causes each year.

“Opioid use disorders present a devastating and major public health concern and are marked by behaviors such as a compulsive desire to use opioids despite negative consequences, severe withdrawal symptoms upon drug abstinence and incredibly high relapse rates,” says Dr. Tucciarone, noting that the work’s “ultimate goal [is] building upon these findings to uncover new therapies to mitigate opioid abuse and relapse.”

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