Morphine Found to Have Limited Value in Certain Chronic Pain Patients, Researchers Say

Morphine Found to Have Limited Value in Certain Chronic Pain Patients, Researchers Say

Chronic pain can seriously affect the quality of life of a person, and it is often experienced by patients with medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis. Now, researchers say that the use of the opioid morphine has only limited therapeutic value for controlling pain in these patients.

The results of the study were featured in an issue of the journal Pain Practice.

The sensitivity for pain in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome depends largely on the function of central pain mechanisms — pain inhibitory and enhanced pain facilitatory mechanisms. Several studies have tried to find the underlying processes behind chronic pain, but depending on the illness, different systems seem to be involved.

Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia often have widespread hypersensitivity to pain due to a malfunction of the processes that control pain in the central nervous system (CNS), called central sensitization. This is when pain itself modifies the way the CNS works, and the patient gets more pain with less provocation. Rheumatoid arthritis patients, however, have pain caused by altered pain modulation processes.

Drug prescriptions to reduce pain are common, but the response to these drugs varies greatly.

Understanding how patients with different conditions respond to the same medication can help researchers identify the differences and similarities of the nature of chronic pain, and may help identify the best treatment for each condition.

In the study, titled “Influence of morphine and naloxone on pain modulation in Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia and controls: a double blind randomized placebo-controlled cross-over study,” researchers from Belgium compared the effects of opioid-mediated pain inhibition in rheumatoid arthritis patients with those seen in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.

The clinical study (NCT01154647) included 10 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, 11 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and 20 healthy pain-free individuals as control.

The chronic pain patients received an opioid-based drug — morphine — or a placebo. The healthy volunteers underwent the same procedure but with naloxone instead of morphine. Naloxone is an approved nonselective opioid antagonist medicine used to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose.

The results of the study showed that patients in the chronic pain group had lower pain thresholds compared with the healthy control group.

Morphine was found to increase the pain threshold of chronic pain patients compared to the control group. But this effect was similar to that observed in the group of pain patients treated with a placebo.

According to the team, the results showed that morphine was able to decrease the sensitivity to pain (it has an anti-hyperalgesia action) in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis. “Nevertheless, these effects were comparable to placebo,” researchers wrote.

Overall, the findings suggest the effects of morphine in modulating central sensitivity in patients with chronic pain is limited, and that “treatment of central sensitization may necessitate a combination of different acting pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments,” the team concluded.

7 comments

  1. Cheri says:

    Seriously…you expect FM patients to consider a study based on a total of 41 patients to actually tell us something? Plus 20 of the patients were healthy people without FM or arthritis..
    I personally don’t take anything with Morphhine in it but if I did I would consider this study less than useless.
    I usually get at least a kernal of useful information from your articles so was more than disappointed with this one.

    • Janice says:

      Cheri: I agree with you. They are simply trying to appease us. FM sufferers are predominantly female which I’m afraid to suspect may be influencing the degree of investment into these tests and results. When more men are found to be affected by this we’ll see more results. (Now, if we were suffering from erectile dysfunction we’d be at the top of the list!)

      • Joyce Krause says:

        Love your comment. How true. I have had fibro my entire life, and now I’m being told that what works doesn’t? AND what does giving Naloxone to healthy patients have to do with the study? Different drug – healthy patients?

  2. Janice says:

    I have been recently taking Arnica pellets and it is helping. I take 3-4 on bad nights and it seems to help me get to sleep. Otherwise, I am going to try medical marijuana (pill or oil form), depending on the costs. People who get sucked into the dependency on drugs being pushed for FM (Lyrica), etc. will only get worse and doctors know NOTHING about FM. Meds won’t ‘fix’ you enough to lead a normal life; you are actually better to do without. Try the naturopathic way (acupuncture, etc) if you can afford it. But $$ is a BIG problem.

  3. Kathy says:

    I tried morphine for the fibromyalgia. It did not help the pain, only caused me to sleep and severe constipation. Hydrocodone helped the most with muscle relaxers added. since the government is vracking down on opiate use, I asked to be switched to tramad ol. It does not help. I am going to go back to doctor and get down on my knees and grovel to get the hydrocodone back. There is onky one other way to end this unrelenting pain and I really don’t want to go there. someone needs to come up with a cure for this. I am a responsible person who takes meds as instructed. I do not sell or give my meds away. Why are we being punished because of irresponsible idiots?

  4. Melanie Dowdy says:

    Morphine was the only thing that would touch my pain when I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 17 years ago, and I thank God for it! Through the years, I tried many other opiates and medications. When Cymbalta came along, I found I was able to cut my morphine by a third. Several years later when given Xanax for anxiety, I found it helped the pain and I was able to cut the morphine again by half. Several years ago, found I had adrenal fatigue, and 30mg of Cortef daily and I was able to stop the morphine and Xanax completely. No, I am not pain free, but I make it with occasional use of ibuprophen, heat, massage, relaxation techniques, curcumin and rest. But my point is, some of are helped by opiates. I believe the root causes for our fibro at different, be it trauma, viruses, biotoxins, anxiety, etc. But they all manifest in the same painful symptoms. Those who are helped by the narcotics should have easy access to them through their doctor/pain specialist.

  5. Morphine definitely have the limited value as given the recent opioid epidemic in the US, many people are searching for alternative, natural methods to manage and control chronic pain, without the use of medication or risk of addiction, using the power of the mind.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *