Morphine Might Make Pain Worse
Morphine is an opioid used to treat chronic pain. And while it succeeds to providing pain relief, a new study found that morphine may cause more harm than good.
A study in rats found that morphine doubled the time needed for rats to recover from pain. This suggests that morphine used to treat chronic pain may be ineffective in the long run.
“We are showing for the first time that even a brief exposure to opioids can have long-term negative effects on pain,” said Peter Grace, an author in the study. (Source)
The study used male rats, who underwent surgery to feel an uncomfortable pain. During surgery, rats’ sciatic nerves were squeezed with a stitch. The rats were then given either morphine or saline during recovery. The treatments lasted 5 days
The rats taking saline, a salt-water solution, recovered in four four weeks. The rats taking morphine, however, still showed signs of pain. When prodded, the rats taking morphine were sensitive.
This sensitivity was due to the rats’ spinal cords being inflamed. This may be due to an immune system response caused by morphine. The morphine triggers the immune response, activating microglia, and causing inflammation.
There’s no telling whether or not the response is the same in humans, or if the effect occurs with all opioids. Morphine is just one type of opioid, but the study casts doubt on whether opioids are the right treatment for long-term pain.
Opioids are already under fire for their potential for abuse. Over time, opioid abuse can cause severe problems, and even death.
Opioids are pain killing, addictive drugs. Many opioids come in the form of medications, such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and morphine. While effective in treating pain, the extended use of these medications can cause opioid dependency. This may lead users to seek cheaper alternatives in the form of illegal opioids, such as heroin.
Opioid addiction is widespread, and is difficult to treat. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), in 2014, almost 2 million people were addicted to prescription painkillers. Almost 600,000 people were addicted to heroin.
An opioid overdose can be deadly. During an overdose, respiratory depression can occur, causing death. According to ASAM, there were approximately 50,000 overdose deaths in 2014 alone.
With millions addicted to prescription painkillers, reducing the amount of opioid prescriptions is a step toward eliminating opioid dependency. While opioid use is necessary to treat severe pain, it may not be the best route for chronic pain. If opioids do create long-term pain sensitivity, an entirely new method of treatment may be needed for chronic pain sufferers.