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Morphine paradoxically prolongs neuropathic pain in rats by amplifying spinal NLRP3 inflammasome activation

PainSci » bibliography » Grace et al 2016
updated
Tags: treatment, medications, harms, chronic pain, self-treatment, pain problems

Four articles on PainSci cite Grace 2016: 1. The Complete Guide to Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain2. Complete Guide to Frozen Shoulder3. Opioids for Chronic Aches & Pains4. A Rational Guide to Fibromyalgia

PainSci notes on Grace 2016:

This rat study demonstrated that opioids can actually cause chronic pain rather than treating it. In rats, anyway. Obviously replication in human studies is needed.

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

Opioid use for pain management has dramatically increased, with little assessment of potential pathophysiological consequences for the primary pain condition. Here, a short course of morphine, starting 10 d after injury in male rats, paradoxically and remarkably doubled the duration of chronic constriction injury (CCI)-allodynia, months after morphine ceased. No such effect of opioids on neuropathic pain has previously been reported. Using pharmacologic and genetic approaches, we discovered that the initiation and maintenance of this multimonth prolongation of neuropathic pain was mediated by a previously unidentified mechanism for spinal cord and pain-namely, morphine-induced spinal NOD-like receptor protein 3 (NLRP3) inflammasomes and associated release of interleukin-1β (IL-1β). As spinal dorsal horn microglia expressed this signaling platform, these cells were selectively inhibited in vivo after transfection with a novel Designer Receptor Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADD). Multiday treatment with the DREADD-specific ligand clozapine-N-oxide prevented and enduringly reversed morphine-induced persistent sensitization for weeks to months after cessation of clozapine-N-oxide. These data demonstrate both the critical importance of microglia and that maintenance of chronic pain created by early exposure to opioids can be disrupted, resetting pain to normal. These data also provide strong support for the recent "two-hit hypothesis" of microglial priming, leading to exaggerated reactivity after the second challenge, documented here in the context of nerve injury followed by morphine. This study predicts that prolonged pain is an unrealized and clinically concerning consequence of the abundant use of opioids in chronic pain.

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