Although reports of abuse, addiction and overdoses have long been attached to the misuse of prescription pain medication, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder may have discovered a new peril.
Results of a three-month study released Monday by the university shows opioids, such as morphine, cause an increase in chronic pain in lab rats, something that could have implications for people, too.
Peter Grace, a CU Boulder assistant research professor, and Linda Watkins, a professor, led the study that they say shows lab rats exhibited long-lasting chronic pain after using morphine treatments for five days. Those results, Grace said, using opioid painkillers may be partly to blame for chronic pain.
"Our key finding is that we were able to demonstrate that a brief treatment with a pain killer, like morphine, doubled the duration of chronic pain," said Grace, who works at CU's department of psychology and neuroscience.
The study, which was published Monday in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," showed morphine treatment intensified the release of pain signals from specific immune cells in the rats' spinal cords, leading to prolonged pain.