04 December, 2020

A Soothing Far Gentler

Now, a drug that eases pain like morphine, minus the addiction

Sandipan Chatterjee
A Soothing Far Gentler

It could be dangerously addictive and blur the realms of pain and pleasure. Morphine—what the World Health Organisation considers the ‘gold standard’ for pain relief—has been used abundantly by doctors worldwide to treat chronic pain since it was discovered over 200 years ago. This powerful analgesic is the most powerful opiate in the poppy plant and works by attaching to specific prot­eins called opioid receptors found in the brain, blocking pain signals. But while many countries consider this booster dose as central to palliative care, India does not. Less than four per cent of people in the country who suffer from severe pain caused by cancer and chronic illnes­ses have access to medicinal morphine because of its potential for abuse. The fear of addiction has also been cited as one of the main reasons by the government for hesitating to ease access to it.

So is there an alternative to medicinal morphine without its side-effects? Yes, it seems. A group of scientists in Calcutta, led by Surajit Sinha, an associate professor in the...



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