From Reversing Opioid Overdose to Treating Alcohol Use Disorder
Opioid antagonists are a class of compounds that selectively bind to opioid receptors, a critical component of the brain’s reward circuitry. Well known to be safe, they block the ability of opioid drugs (analgesics such as morphine and illicit opioids such as heroin) and endogenous opioid-like peptides (endorphins) that activate the brain’s opioid receptors.
Thus, opioid antagonists can regulate the reward circuitry by reducing or inhibiting behaviors (e.g., craving and reward) triggered when opioid receptors are activated by, for example, opioid drugs or alcohol (which stimulates the release of endogenous opioids). Because both endogenous opioid-like peptides and opioid drugs modulate dopamine release, opioid antagonists can also help manage dopamine-mediated behaviors such as craving.