| back pain

Opioid Side Effects: From One’s Own Immune System?

Pain Relief Can Lead to ↑ Inflammation/Sensitivity

In research presented today by the American Chemical Society (ACS), it is stated that long term opioid use can lead to chronic inflammation and heightened pain sensitivity. Why? Study leader Cody J. Wenthur, PharmD, PhD, commented, “…we started thinking that the patient’s own immune system could be responsible for some of the negative effects of long-term opioid use. We thought the body could be mounting an immune response and making antibodies against the drugs.” Blood samples were taken from 19 patients with chronic back pain, who took oxycodone or hydrocodone, and 3 control patients who took OTC medication or utilized nonpharmacologic means of pain relief. Through various means of testing it was discovered that “Anti-opioid antibodies were found in the plasma of 10 people [out of 19] who regularly took prescription opioids for chronic lower back pain and almost none were found in those who used OTCs.” Antibody responses were seen in those taking large doses of opioids for even half a year.

The potential of the findings in this study: determining the prevalence of antibodies based on the sex, race, and age of the people involved. In helping identify efficacy biomarkers for opioid vaccines in clinical trial, “you would expect individuals with higher levels of these antibodies to be poor candidates for anti-opioid vaccine therapy,” said Jillian Kyzer, PhD, a postdoc in Wenthur’s lab. “Opioid use disorder and opioid overdoses continue to be a major epidemic in this country,” continued Dr. Wenthur. “A relatively new therapeutic approach entering clinical trials is what in shorthand we call an opioid vaccine, where the immune system generates a response against the drugs. But for this approach to be successful, we need to identify the people who would benefit from that approach.”


Read the ACS statement.