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One Small, Treatable Pathway May Cause Percocet Withdrawal Symptoms

The withdrawal associated with opioid substance use disorder and dependence to prescription drugs like Percocet is famously known for being one of the most difficult drug withdrawals that anyone experiences. Symptoms of digestive upset, nausea, depression, anxiety and sweating are all part of the painful opioid withdrawal process that often result in users returning to opioid use, just to feel some relief.

New research by Stanford University biologists took note. These scientists believe they have located the controlled nerve center in the brain that reacts to this powerful withdrawal. By working directly on this part of the brain, these scientists were able to remove these unwanted withdrawal symptoms in mice. Lead scientist Xiaoke Chen, assistant professor of biology at Stanford, stated, “Most research that studies drug addiction is focused on the reward pathway because that is the reason you start to take drugs, but people who really get addicted also take drugs to get rid of the withdrawal effect. This is especially important in opiate addiction.”

The nucleus accumbens, a small group of neurons in the brain that activate when they perceive the reward of opiate drugs like Percocet, were the main focus. While these neurons activate with the reward of opioids, they also light up with activity with painful consequences, like drug withdrawal. These researchers found that the nucleus accumbens and a group of cells in the thalamus, the PVT (paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus), were particularly activated by opioid use and withdrawal.

The scientists then used optogenetics, the use of light sensitive molecules to break up this tiny communication link in the brain. They calmed this pathway down and returned it to normal functioning. Amazingly, these opioid withdrawal symptoms completely disappeared in test subjects. By changing one small pathway in a single synapse, a host of withdrawal symptoms were altered.

The good news is that this study may result in a more targeted way to decrease opioid withdrawal symptoms with greater comfort and less side-effects. Researchers believe this may also be key to treating some types of depression and anxiety.

This treatment method will not be available for some time. However, opioid dependence can be deadly in the immediate future. Every year, new methods to help ease Percocet withdrawal and opioid withdrawal are developed. Don’t let the fear of opioid withdrawal keep you from living a better life. The risks of chronic opioid use are too great. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to learn about the latest treatment options available. Call our 24 hour, toll-free, confidential helpline to learn more.


[1] Yingjie Zhu et al. A thalamic input to the nucleus accumbens mediates opiate dependence, Nature (2016). DOI: 10.1038/nature16954