DOD Science Blog Highlights Opioids Research

Michael Feasel, Ph.D., is working to understand the effects of carfentanil at the cellular and systemic levels in order to help determine the dosage of naloxone needed to resuscitate people who have been exposed to the powerful opioid.

The U.S. Department of Defense Science Blog featured an article Feb. 16 that highlights opioids research by Michael Feasel, Ph.D., of the Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, with support from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, trying to determine how to treat exposure to carfentanil, an especially powerful opioid that "poses a risk to both civilians and warfighters," according to the article.

It explains that carfentanil activates the body's opioid receptors, depressing the respiratory drive and other central nervous system functions. The drug naloxone can reverse the effects of the narcotic, but carfentanil "is so potent that larger doses of naloxone may be required to counter its effects. Currently, little research on the effective dosage is available," it says.

"Higher-potency versions of naloxone are available, however, the Food and Drug Administration has not seen a need to get them approved for human use, until now. These ultra-potent opioid exposures are not only a chemical defense issue, but they are also a public health issue," Feasel says in the article, which says he is working to understand the effects of carfentanil at the cellular and systemic levels in order to help determine the dosage of naloxone needed to resuscitate people who have been exposed to carfentanil. He is collaborating with the National Institute on Drug Abuse in trying to identify metabolites in carfentanil using human liver cells.

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