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Scientists Hope to Synthesize Non-Addictive Painkiller from Salvia Divinorum

Gizmodo featured an article yesterday about how scientists are trying to use Salvia divinorum to synthesize a non-addictive painkiller as an alternative to opioids.

“A team of scientists are now reporting that they’ve found an easier way create a slightly-altered version of the chemical responsible for salvia’s hallucinogenic effects, Salvinorin A,” the article states. “They’re not doing it so that you can continue having wild trips with your high school friends, though. Instead, these researchers are looking for a painkiller with opiate-like effects, but with a lower potential to abuse. They think their new method will take advantage of the chemical’s potential as an analgesic without the trip.”

According to the article, Salvinorin A is unstable, which makes it difficult for researchers to work with, although some scientists have managed to synthesize and change its structure to some extent.

Scientists from Scripps Research Institutes in California and Florida, and at the University of Southern California, thought that by slightly changing the molecule as it’s being synthesized, they can make it more stable and easier to customize, while retaining opiate-like effects.

The molecule the scientists produced is called 20-nor-Salvinorin A. Tests on mice showed that the molecule appeared to be “about as effective as Salvinorin A in getting rid of an induced itching sensation.” The scientists were not able to determine, however, whether or not the mice were tripping out.

Although the molecule works in mice, there’s no telling yet whether it could also work in humans.



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