Vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk of addiction to opioids and ultraviolet rays

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Vitamin D deficiency greatly exaggerates the desire and effects of opioids, potentially increasing the risk of addiction and addiction, according to a new study led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). These results, published in Scientific advances, suggest that addressing the common problem of vitamin D deficiency with economic supplements could play an important role in combating the ongoing scourge of opioid addiction.

Previous work by David E. Fisher, MD, Ph.D., director of the melanoma program at the Mass General Cancer Center and director of the MGH Skin Biology Research Center (CBRC), laid the groundwork for the current study. . In 2007, Fisher and his team found something unexpected: exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays (specifically the form called UVB) causes the skin to produce the hormone endorphin, which is chemically related to morphine, the heroin. and other opioids, in fact, all activate the same receptors in the brain. A later Fisher study found that UV exposure increases endorphin levels in mice, which then show compatible behavior. addiction.

Endorphin is sometimes called the “feel good” hormone because it induces a slight feeling of euphoria. Studies have suggested that some people develop a desire to sunbathe and visit tanning salons that reflect the behavior of opioid addicts. Fisher and colleagues speculated that people might look for UVB because, without realizing it, they want endorphin precipitation. But this suggests an important contradiction. “Why would we evolve to behaviorally attract the most common carcinogen that exists?” Fisher asked. After all, sun exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer, to say nothing of wrinkles and other skin damage.

Fisher believes that the only explanation for why humans and other animals seek the sun is that exposure to UV radiation is necessary for the production of vitamin D, which our bodies cannot formulate on their own. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, which is essential for bone formation. As human tribes migrated north during prehistory, an evolutionary alteration might have been necessary to force them out of the caves and into the sun on very cold days. Otherwise, young children would have died from prolonged vitamin D deficiency (the cause of rickets) and weak bones could have broken when people fled from predators, leaving them vulnerable.

This theory led Fisher and his colleagues to hypothesize that solar research is driven by vitamin D deficiency, with the goal of increasing hormone synthesis for survival, and that the Vitamin D deficiency can also make the body more sensitive to the effects of opioids, which can potentially contribute to addiction. “Our goal in this study was to understand the relationship between vitamin D signaling in the body and UV-seeking and opioid-seeking behaviors,” says lead author Lajos V. Kemény, MD, Ph.D. D., postdoctoral researcher in dermatology. and MGH.

A la Scientific advances paper, Fisher, Kemény and a multidisciplinary team from various institutions approached the issue from two perspectives. In one arm of the study, they compared normal lab mice with mice deficient in vitamin D (either by special breeding or by eliminating vitamin D from their diets). “We have found that modulation of vitamin D levels changes multiple addictive behaviors in both ultraviolet rays and opioids,” says Kemény. Importantly, when mice were conditioned with modest doses of morphine, vitamin D deficiencies continued to look for the drug, a less common behavior among normal mice. When morphine was removed, mice with low levels of vitamin D were much more likely to develop withdrawal symptoms.

The study also found that morphine worked more effectively as an analgesic in vitamin D-deficient mice, meaning that the opioid had an exaggerated response in these mice, which may be worrisome if it is also true. in humans, Fisher says. After all, consider a patient with surgery receiving morphine to control the pain after the operation. If this patient is deficient in vitamin D, the euphoric effects of morphine could be exaggerated, Fisher says, “and that person is more likely to become addicted.”

Laboratory data suggesting that vitamin D deficiency increases addictive behavior were supported by several attached analyzes of human health records. One showed that patients with modestly low vitamin D levels were 50% more likely than other people with normal opioid levels to be used, while patients with severe vitamin D deficiency were 90% more likely. Another analysis found that patients diagnosed with opioid use disorder (TUU) were more likely than others to be deficient in vitamin D.

Back in the lab, one of the other critical findings from the study could have significant implications, Fisher says. “When we corrected vitamin D levels in deficient mice, their opioid responses were reversed and returned to normal,” he says. In humans, vitamin D deficiency is widespread, but it can be treated safely and easily with low-cost dietary supplements, Fisher points out. Although more research is needed, he believes it is D deficiency may offer a new way to help reduce the risk of UDE and strengthen existing treatments for the disorder. “Our results suggest that we may have an opportunity in the field of public health to influence the opioid epidemic,” Fisher says.


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More information:
LV Kemény et al., “Vitamin D deficiency exacerbates UV / endorphin and opioid addiction.” Scientific advances (2021). avances.sciencemag.org/lookup….1126/sciadv.abe4577

Citation: Vitamin D Deficiency May Increase Risk of Opioid and Ultraviolet Addiction (2021, June 11) Retrieved June 11, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-vitamin -d-deficiency-addiction-opioids.html

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