Research team conducts study about affects of opiates on human connection


Courtesy of Freepik

The research team will be examining the effect of opiates on human connection. So far, no studies have researched the affects of opiates on humans.

by George Liao , Staff Writer

The Social Health and Affective Neuroscience Lab (SHANL), a study associated with the Department of Psychology at San Diego State and the SDSU Research Foundation is conducting research on the effects of a naltrexone. Naltrexone is a  prescription medication. 

The study will examine opiate and alcohol addiction and the consequential effects of the medication to promote wellbeing. The study is looking for volunteers to be a part of the trial. Each volunteer must go through a detailed screening process.

Alexis Pinela is a project coordinator for SHANL explained more about the medication being studied.

“Naltrexone is the medication that we are primarily using in our opioid research project,” Pinela said. “It’s a U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved prescription used to treat opioid use disorder as well alcohol-use disorder. Naltrexone works as an opioid blocker for our body.” 

In this specific study, the researcher team is looking at healthy volunteers in order to explore the specific effects of how this medication influences social behavior when using the opioid blocker.

On the program’s website, it states the researchers want to find out the effects of naltrexone on the pleasure and pain centers of the brain. 

The website said, “​​Endogenous opioids, best known for their role in pleasure and pain, are also proposed to influence social connection with close others.” 

The study will look at how naltrexone affects the participant’s ability to form connections with others, according to the website. The role of opioids in forming social connections has never been tested on humans.

Prime volunteers are those who are interested in neuroscience,  psychology and the potential benefits for those who have the opiate or alcohol dependency. 

“We are looking for people from the ages of 18 to 25 at the present moment, and we are looking overall for healthy individuals are our main criteria,” Kris Ngo, a project coordinator for SHANL said. “They get the opportunity to contribute to mental health research and contribute to those overcoming hardships in their lives because our research looks to better the lives of others.”

Pinela mentioned the study is open to all university students, and they have recently looked for volunteers from clubs and organizations on campus.

“Right now we reached out to different clubs at SDSU that are affiliated with medical or psychology interests,” Pinela said. “They can also get exposed to neuroscience research. And also experience a MRI scan for the first time.” 

On what participants can learn by being a participant in the study, Pinela said, “From the students that we had who were interested, they were mainly interested in the exposure to neuroscience and the research process. Our principal investigator has said that a lot of people are also interested if they have known people whether like family or family members or mutual people that [they’ve known who] suffered from alcohol abuse or from opiate abuse disorder.”

Pinela said the study is transparent, and volunteers can withdraw from the study at any time. 

“Even though they sign a consent form, they are not bound to complete the study,” Pinela said. “We also have a medical doctor working on this project with us. So once a person signs the consent form and goes to the last round of screening, the ultimate checkmark is with the medical doctor for his final signoff on the prescription.”

For those who are interested, information on the study can be accessed at their website and an interest sheet can be found at this location