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Drugs & Health Blog

Could Snake Venom Help with the Opioid Problem?

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The NIDA Blog Team

Could we one day have a safer pain reliever made from snake venom? Scientists have been studying venom from snakes and spiders (like tarantulas) that might lead to pain relievers that are more effective or safer than prescription opioids. And there are plenty of venoms left to study: more than 20 million of them, from over 150,000 animal species.  

Wait a minute. Snakes and spiders use their venom to numb or kill their prey. How can venom help the body?

The toxins (poisons) in venom damage several of the body’s essential functions, like the circulatory system (which moves blood through the body) and nervous system (the body’s “electrical wiring”). Researchers wondered: Since venom affects those bodily systems, could certain chemicals in venom be used to treat some problems or health conditions that affect those same systems? This approach to developing drugs is called “toxineering.”

Toxineering has already produced some important medicines. The first one to get approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), back in 1981, is still used to reduce high blood pressure. That medicine was developed from the venom of a snake, the Brazilian pit viper. Since then, the FDA has approved other venom-derived drugs to treat various heart problems.

Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll go to the doctor, and poisonous venom (or, more accurately, medicine made from it) will improve your health—or even save your life.

Why are opioids so addictive? Find out here.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


Wow. Never thought that one day this would help us
That's actually really cool. Especially because opioid addiction is such a huge problem throughout the nation. If they could come up with a safe and effective medication that isn't addictive I think that would be fantastic!
This is a great article for students to read.
This is very interesting if this could replace all the bad addictive painkillers that would be so great imagen how much problems this would solve
Does anyone know how much snake venom is used in these medications????

Great question! The amount of venom varies depending upon the medication.

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