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AI for the Treatment of Opioid Addiction

AI can analyze a patient’s medical history, genetics, and other data to develop a personalized treatment plan. This could include tailored medication regimes, behavioral therapy, and other approaches that are more effective for that individual.

Navigation: How Can AI Help Treat Opioid Addiction?, What are Opioids?, How Can You Safely Use Opioids to Manage Pain?, What are the Potential Side Effects of Opioids?, All about Opioid Addiction, How is Opioid Addiction Normally Treated?, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


An estimated three million Americans currently struggle with an opioid use disorder. Each year, over 80,000 Americans die from overdoses related to opioid use. Now, researchers are developing technology to help fight this opioid epidemic. Specifically, they are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to create new drugs that can potentially help those who have an opioid addiction. If successful, this may revolutionize drug treatments.

Opioids like fentanyl, oxycodone, and morphine cause mu-opioid receptor activation, which leads to pain relief. This is why they work so well as painkillers. However, these drugs also cause a euphoric sensation that can get people addicted, which makes them dangerous. Aside from the risk of addiction, there is also the risk of overdose due to slowed or decreased breathing. Opioid users may also develop drug dependence.

For these reasons, it is important to talk about how AI can potentially contribute to the fight against opioid addiction. Let’s take a closer look.


How Can AI Help Treat Opioid Addiction?

There are plenty of ways artificial intelligence can potentially transform the way opioid addiction is treated. For example, it may provide real-time personalized care, improve clinical decision-making, and reduce the risk of relapse.

AI can help with the early detection of opioid abuse and addiction. AI algorithms can analyze data from electronic health records, social media, and other sources to identify individuals who are at a higher risk of developing opioid addiction. This can help healthcare providers intervene early and prevent addiction before it takes hold.

Personalized treatment—an essential component of all rehab programs—is another thing AI can provide. AI can analyze a patient’s medical history, genetics, and other data to develop a personalized treatment plan. This could include tailored medication regimes, behavioral therapy, and other approaches that are more effective for that individual.

AI can even use machine learning to identify patterns and predict the likelihood of relapse. This can help healthcare providers adjust treatment plans and intervene early.

Aside from predictive monitoring, AI can also be used to monitor a patient’s progress as they go through treatment. It can alert healthcare providers if there are signs of relapse or other issues. This can help improve patient outcomes and reduce the risk of overdose.

Beyond these potential uses, AI is already being used to create and optimize new opioid treatment medications.

Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, US are using AI to discover drugs that inhibit the kappa-opioid receptor. Postdoctoral researcher Leslie Salas Estrada presented her work at the 67th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting in San Diego, California, hoping that the technology would help alleviate opioid addiction.

“If you are addicted and trying to quit, at some point you will get withdrawal symptoms, and those can be really hard to overcome,” Salas Estrada said. “After a lot of opioid exposure, your brain gets rewired to need more drugs. Blocking the activity of the kappa opioid receptor has been shown in animal models to reduce this need to use drugs in the withdrawal period.”

Since kappa-opioid receptors are known to mediate brain rewards, blocking kappa-opioid receptors may help in treating patients with physical dependence for opioid drugs.

Unfortunately, finding these drugs that can properly block kappa-opioid receptors takes a long time. It’s an expensive endeavor for researchers. But using AI and other computational tools can optimize this process by screening billions of chemical compounds. Researchers believe AI is the solution to making this study more efficient.

According to Salas Estrada, the main benefit of AI is the ability to take large amounts of data and learn how to recognize patterns emerging from it. They believe that machine learning will be able to design entirely new drugs from scratch using large chemical databases. This can revolutionize drug discovery.

The researchers used information about the kappa-opioid receptor then used a reinforcement learning algorithm to train a computer model to generate compounds that have the potential to block the receptor.

After finding several compounds with these properties, researchers started working to synthesize them for testing. Eventually, these new compounds will be tested on animal models for safety and effectiveness.

Researchers trained a computer model to help them find compounds that are favorable for drug treatments. We can say that AI is the perfect tool for discovering drugs that will protect people from drug overdose and addiction. Someday it will help save lives by treating opioid dependence.

AI also has the potential to revolutionize opioid addiction treatment by providing personalized care and real-time monitoring to help patients achieve and maintain recovery. However, it is important to note that AI should be used as a tool to support healthcare providers and not as a replacement for human interaction and care.


What are Opioids?

To fully appreciate the benefits of AI in the treatment of opioid dependence and addiction, we need to understand what these substances are, what they can do, and how dangerous they can be.

Opioids are a class of drugs that act on the central nervous system to relieve pain. They include prescription medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine, as well as illegal drugs such as heroin.

Opioids activate opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord to reduce the transmission of pain signals, leading to pain relief and feelings of euphoria. However, opioids are also highly addictive and can lead to overdose and death if misused or abused.

Also known as narcotics, these medications are often prescribed by doctors for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. They are given to patients with chronic headaches or backaches, for example. It is also commonly given to patients suffering from cancer pain or post-surgical pain. Opioids may also be prescribed for someone who recently got into an accident and is suffering from severe pain due to their injury.

While opioids are definitely helpful and beneficial, they are also undeniably addictive. If the person is not careful, they can get high and start misusing their prescription. For people with chronic pain, the risk of developing addiction is even higher.

The most commonly prescribed opioids are the following: fentanyl, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and morphine. Common brand names for these drugs include OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin.

Heroin is also a type of opioid despite being illegal and highly addictive. Unlike other opioids, there is no sanctioned medical use for heroin.

Opioids are often taken in pill form, but they can also be administered by injection, delivered through a skin patch, or taken as lozenges.

How Can You Safely Use Opioids to Manage Pain?

Opioids work best when taken as prescribed. If you feel any side effects, be sure to inform your doctor right away. Also inform your doctor of any other medications you are taking to avoid potential drug interactions.

Always follow your doctor’s instructions for taking opioids. Never take more than prescribed or take them for a longer duration than recommended. If you are taking opioids, do not consume alcohol or other sedatives. This can put you at risk of an overdose.

On that note, never share your prescription drugs with anybody else even if they have the same condition. Keep your medications in a secure place, out of reach of children and pets.

Here are some other things to keep in mind when taking opioids for your pain:

Do not operate heavy machinery or drive while taking opioids as they can impair your cognitive and motor functions.

Report any adverse effects, including dizziness, nausea, or confusion, to your doctor immediately.

Be aware of the signs of opioid dependence, including withdrawal symptoms, and seek medical help if necessary.

Dispose of unused opioids safely and properly to prevent misuse or accidental ingestion.

Keep in mind that opioids are only effective for pain management if you use them right. Otherwise, you are putting yourself at risk of drug dependence, overdose, and addiction. Opioids should be taken under a physician’s supervision. Following their instructions and sticking with the right dosage can help keep you safe from potential side effects or adverse effects. Take opioids as directed and you shouldn’t have any problems.

If you experience any side effects or possible symptoms of an overdose, call your doctor or contact 911 immediately.

What are the Potential Side Effects of Opioids?

Although helpful when it comes to managing moderate to severe pain, opioids may also cause certain side effects. The most common side effects of opioids are the following: drowsiness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, constipation, dry mouth, itching, and sweating.

In some severe cases, opioids may cause respiratory depression, which can put someone’s life in danger. There have also been cases wherein opioids caused symptoms like confusion, cognitive impairment, decreased sex drive, infertility, and hormonal imbalances.

Some of the most serious effects of opioids include: shallow breathing, slowed heart rate, and loss of consciousness. These may be signs of an overdose and must be reported to a medical professional immediately.

If a person has been taking opioids for a long time and they suddenly stop or reduce their intake, they may experience withdrawal symptoms.

It is essential to follow the prescribed dosage and talk to a healthcare provider if any side effects occur. Overdose of opioids can lead to life-threatening situations, and it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately if any signs of overdose are observed.

On top of all these effects, addiction is also a possibility. Opioids can lead your brain to believe it is necessary for survival. People can quickly develop tolerance for the substance, and soon they feel like they need to take more than the prescribed dose just to feel the same effects.

All about Opioid Addiction

With repeated use, the brain can become dependent on opioids, and users may experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit. However, addiction and dependence are actually two different things, and it’s important to know the distinction.

Opioid addiction is a chronic disease characterized by a compulsive urge to use opioids, despite the negative consequences. The addicted person will seek out the drug because they have a physical and mental craving for it. They may lose interest in things they used to enjoy, preferring to spend their time abusing opioids instead. This compulsive use of the drug can put them at risk of an overdose.

Taking too many opioids may lead to an overdose. Watch out for symptoms like unresponsiveness, slow breathing, irregular breathing, lack of a pulse, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and small pupils.

If someone you love is experiencing any of these symptoms, they need immediate medical treatment. Call 911 right away or contact your doctor.

On the other hand, drug dependence is when the body has adapted to the drug’s constant presence. It begins to produce adverse health effects when the person stops taking opioids. Opioid dependence is characterized by withdrawal symptoms.

Although addiction and dependence are used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same. A person can have one without the other. Unfortunately, it is also common for these two medical conditions to co-occur.

Addiction can lead to a range of physical, psychological, and social problems, including overdose and death. The most common treatment for opioid addiction is a combination of detox, medication-assisted therapy, counseling, and support groups.

How is Opioid Addiction Normally Treated?

While AI is signaling the future of addiction treatment, you can’t go wrong with the traditional rehab programs that already exist today. After all, opioid addiction is a complex chronic condition that requires a comprehensive treatment approach. Here are some of the most commonly used treatments for opioid addiction:

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): This is the use of medications like methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone to help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. These medications can be highly effective in reducing the risk of relapse and improving long-term recovery outcomes.

Behavioral therapy: This involves individual or group therapy to help the patient change their behaviors and thought patterns that keep them from getting sober again. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management (CM) are two types of therapy that have been shown to be effective in treating opioid addiction.

Detoxification: Medical detox is the process of eliminating opioids from the body, typically in a medical setting. While detoxification is not a complete treatment, it is an important first step in the recovery process.

Most treatment programs will include a combination of these three treatment approaches. Rehab for opioid addiction may be done in an inpatient or outpatient setting, depending on the person’s condition.

Look for an addiction treatment center near you today if you know someone who is struggling with an opioid addiction or any other type of substance use disorder. The road to recovery begins today.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.


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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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