Public Release: 

Understanding pain exacerbation with opioid use

Society for Neuroscience

A new study published in JNeurosci advances understanding of how the potent opioid analgesic fentanyl can increase pain sensitivity in animals. These findings could inform the development of treatments for chronic pain that minimize the side effects of these powerful pain-relieving drugs.

Fentanyl, a class of opioids more potent than morphine and heroin, has taken center stage in the United States' deadly opioid epidemic. When prescribed and used appropriately, fentanyl is a powerful, fast-acting painkiller. Paradoxically, it can also increase patients' pain sensitivity. This serious adverse effect makes it difficult to manage the drug's risks and benefits.

To better understand the neurobiological basis of such heightened pain sensitivity, Jon Levine, Dionéia Araldi and colleagues injected rats with fentanyl and monitored the amount of pressure on the paw that the animals could tolerate. The researchers found that fentanyl can lower pain threshold in rats. In studies of the underlying mechanism they found that when calcium signaling inside sensory neurons is blocked, this so-called opioid-induced priming effect is prevented, and experimental animals do not become more sensitive to painful stimuli.

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Article: Fentanyl Induces Rapid Onset Hyperalgesic Priming: Type I at Peripheral and Type II at Central Nociceptor Terminals

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3476-17.2018

Corresponding author: Jon Levine (University of California, San Francisco, USA), Jon.Levine@ucsf.edu

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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