Research Aimed at Treating Opioid Withdrawal

By Holland Doran

Investigators are exploring the use of the drug isradipine, commonly prescribed for high blood pressure to reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack. The drug will be administered as part of an eight-week clinical trial to determine if it can decrease the withdrawal symptoms of addicts going through an outpatient detoxification procedure.

For more information about the trial or how to participate, contact the research team at (501) 526-7969.

“We are recruiting subjects who are addicted to opioids and are willing to undergo an outpatient detox procedure to stop using them,” said Alison Oliveto, Ph.D., lead investigator on the study at UAMS’ Center for Addiction Research.

Isradipine is being studied because calcium channel blockers like isradipine have reduced withdrawal in preclinical studies and a few pilot trials in opioid-dependent people.

“We hope that this drug will reduce the withdrawal symptoms of opioid users and, in turn, decrease the odds of them relapsing,” said Oliveto. “Detoxification is a difficult process. Hopefully we can help people beat the odds and eventually get off these drugs altogether.”

Nearly 9 percent of the U.S. population will misuse opioids, including illicit drugs such as heroin and prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, over the course of their lifetime, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Chronic users of these drugs eventually develop a physiological dependence on them. When the user stops taking the drugs, “flu-like” withdrawal symptoms such as abdominal cramping, runny nose, nausea and vomiting may occur. Such symptoms lead many users to begin using these drugs again.

UAMS is the state's only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS' clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children's, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.