Opioids such as morphine and oxycodone are analgesics frequently prescribed for the treatment of moderate or severe pain. Unfortunately, these medications are associated with exceptionally high abuse potentials and often cause fatal side effects, mainly through the μ-opioid receptor (MOR). Efforts to discover novel, safer, and more efficacious analgesics targeting MOR have encountered challenges. In this review, we summarize alternative strategies and targets that could be used to develop safer nonopioid analgesics. A molecular understanding of G protein-coupled receptor activation and signaling has illuminated not only the complexities of receptor pharmacology but also the potential for pathway-selective agonists and allosteric modulators as safer medications. The availability of structures of pain-related receptors, in combination with high-throughput computational tools, has accelerated the discovery of multitarget ligands with promising pharmacological profiles. Emerging clinical evidence also supports the notion that drugs targeting peripheral opioid receptors have potential as improved analgesic agents. Expected final online publication date for the , Volume 90 is June 2021. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
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