We all know that opioid addiction in this country is now epidemic.

The number of opioid prescriptions has quadrupled since 1999 and is responsible for 14,000 deaths per year in the United States with up to 1,000 people per day being seen in our emergency rooms. The problem has become so bad that the Federal government stepped in. Unfortunately, this had the unintended consequence of making it difficult for the law-abiding, legitimate patients to fill their prescriptions. The DEA is going so far as to count down to the minute that a pharmacy can provide a refill to a patient.

Synthetic opioids offer hope

Dr. Aashish Manglik from the Stanford School of Medicine and Henry Lin of UC San Francisco have discovered a new chemical compound named PZM21. A synthetic opioid, PZM21 reportedly offers almost as much pain relief as morphine without the addictive side effects.

When tested on mice placed on a hot surface, PZM21 offered as much pain relief as morphine. Researchers noted that, unlike morphine, the effects lasted up to three hours. That is longer than morphine or any other experimental drug researches have developed to this point. The mice also reportedly did not display the addictive behavior associated with opioids. The mice proved just as likely to go to another chamber to receive saline, as they were to return to the chamber containing PZM21.

The one side effect that does linger in these synthetic opioids is respiratory depression. The mice’s respiratory effort did improve while maintaining the pain relief, however. Subjects receiving morphine maintained respiratory depression even after the pain relief began to wear off.