Improving Translational Research Outcomes for Opioid Use Disorder Treatments

Jermaine D. Jones, Neil B. Varshneya, Thomas J. Hudzik, Andrew S. Huhn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose of Review: Pharmacotherapies are the most effective means of reducing the harms associated with opioid use disorder (OUD). Translational research seeking to develop novel medications to treat OUD has been challenging due to the complex etiology of addiction. Preclinical outcome measures are often behavioral, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to fully mirror the various emotional and cognitive processes that motivate opioid use in humans. The goal of the current narrative review was to summarize the translational progression of three potential medications for OUD, which had varying levels of success. Recent Findings: Memantine, lorcaserin, and lofexidine all showed promise in preclinical studies; however, only lofexidine was able to consistently replicate these findings in human subjects, and receive FDA approval. It was the authors’ objective to use this review to identify areas of needed improvement in translational research for OUD. Summary: Preclinical studies vary significantly in their ability to forecast effectiveness in clinical trials. Among the various preclinical models, suppression of opioid self-administration appears to have the best predictive validity. As they model a mostly physiological phenomenon, preclinical assessments of opioid withdrawal also appear to have high predictive validity. In our review of the literature, the authors noted numerous examples of clinical trials that were underpowered, lack precision, and proper outcomes. Better-validated preclinical targets and improved design of proof-of-concept human studies should allow investigators to more efficiently develop and test medications for OUD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-121
Number of pages13
JournalCurrent Addiction Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Medications development
  • Opioid use disorder
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Translational science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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