Central nervous system respiratory depression is a well-known side-effect of the opioid drug family and respiratory depression is the primary cause of fatal opioid overdose. Opioid research studies are needed to gain a better understanding of the pathways involved in opioid-induced respiratory depression and tolerance. Other research avenues include overdose reversal, alternate drug candidates, and testing pharmaceutical approaches for harm minimisation. Collecting and analyzing this data will be essential to providing better health outcomes.
Whole body plethysmography permits a continuous and non-invasive assessment of breathing patterns in conscious subjects. Measurements of respiratory rate, estimated tidal volume, minute ventilation and events like apneas and deep sighs provide valuable insights into the subject’s breathing drive and behavior. Plethysmography provides the ideal approach to assessing changes in conscious respiratory behaviour which result from drug administration.
The use of swivel towers allows researchers to administer drugs to subjects and to monitor resultant changes in respiration (i.e. frequency, tidal volume, minute volume, flow rates) with ease and in real-time. This approach can also be combined with gas challenges, through the use of automated mass flow controllers, to provide additional stimuli for assessing the control of breathing in the context of opioid administration.
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