Helping Parents, Families, & Caregivers

Drugs through the veins of frogs: What next?

More than 30 horses from 4 states have recently tested positive for a substance known as dermorphine, a powerful opioid substance (found in amphibian or frog skin).  The substance is used in horse-racing competitions  and is as strong (if not stronger) than morphine itself. Dermorphine is basically a heptapeptide ( a peptide or an amino acid compound) originally found in South African frogs. In the scientific world, hepta-peptide has a “nickname” known as snap-7 ( due to its chain being made up of 7 amino acids) and is said to be both an anti-wrinkle and stretch mark agent. There are probably a host of other related uses of the substance that are currently unknown to the wider society. In horses, however, dermorphine acts as a steroid for horses as a result of its performance enhancing properties. Horses injected with dermorphine tend to run much faster than they would otherwise.
Dermorphine is not a naturally occurring substance in humans or mammals. It acts as an agonist in the brain. An agonist is a substance that acts similarly in the brain to another substance. For example, the dermorphine will bind/attach to brain cells (or neurotransmitters) in the same way that morphine does. The drug therefore stimulates an action similar to that of morphine. Agonists are key players in the human body and pharmacology.
In the horse-racing realm, the use of the drug is said to be one of the most serious violations, however, no one has been formally charged as of yet.  Various new drugs have continued to gain media attention over the past few weeks including the controversial bath salts and the crocodile “killer drug.”
As always, I wish you well