New, Non-Addictive Drug Could Beat Depression
Experts say bupe-based "ALKS 5461" could combat depression and anxiety disorders without getting us hooked.
A drug currently undergoing clinical trials may represent a vital breakthrough against major depression and anxiety disorders like PTSD and OCD. Crucially, "ALKS 5461" could offer the mood-enhancing and anxiety-lowering effects of opiates without leading to addiction. It's a combination of two molecules: buprenorphine and ALKS 33—which is there specifically to interfere with bupe’s ability to bind to receptors in the brain and make people feel euphoric and crave more. In a placebo-controlled study, ALKS 5461 was given to 32 patients with major depression; all of them responded positively within a week. The combo reportedly even worked for patients who'd had no luck with traditional antidepressants like Prozac and Effexor. “If ALKS 5461 comes to market (and I believe it will), then that scourge we call major depression will be dealt a massive blow,” writes psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, who wasn't involved in the study. "It will still be imperative to use insight-oriented psychotherapy to get to the bottom of what unique psychological issues have fueled each person’s depression, but that should be easier—not harder—when folks aren’t struggling just to get out of bed and over to their psychiatrists’ offices.” It's not the first time scientists have tried to block the brain's addiction-related receptors; US and Australian researchers recently discovered how to block one specific receptor using plus-naloxone, while still allowing pain relief. ALKS 5461 is being developed by Alkermes Pharmaceuticals, the company behind anti-addiction drug Vivitrol.