Alex Dunedin

Can the opioid system offer a unifying framework for addiction

Aims: Addiction and drug use bring with them a series of complex problems which confound the formation of avenues of therapeutic intervention, deep understandings and social policy. The realm of addiction studies necessarily involves a search for frameworks which can rationalise not only the self reinforcing properties of substance use, but also how these are entwined with a range of mental illnesses, social practices, polypharmacy and environmental traumas. With these problems in mind, the aims of my research have been to analyse what prospective unifying frameworks might bring siloed understandings together to provide practical advantage in the field. The aims of this paper are to show how the investigation has converged in opioid physiology.

Methods: A cross disciplinary systematic literature review was undertaken to find out how addiction behaviours were apprehended in varying disciplines. I have drawn together the findings in each area to form an interdisciplinary narrative which reveals convergence in opioid physiology.

Results: There is a granular evidence base indicating that drug use, addiction, mental health and certain behavioural phenomena converge in opioidal physiology. Pharmacologically and biochemically opioids act through the opiate system without necessarily being true opiates.

Conclusions: The opioid system and its biomarkers may be able to provide a unifying framework to understand addiction as the multivalent phenomenon which it is. Through such contextualised understandings this framework may be able to offer insights into more effective interventions along with integrated understandings of statistical data sets.

Poster link: Can the opioid system offer a unifying framework for addiction