Researchers Identify Way to Reduce Morphine Tolerance to Lower Risk of Addiction

Becoming addicted to a drug as the result of extended medical care is a common problem in the health care industry. While doctors do take necessary steps to try and prevent addiction in their patients, it can still easily happen – especially with highly addictive drugs.

According to a recent Science Daily report, researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have discovered a way to maintain the pain-killing qualities of morphine over an extended period of time. This helps to eliminate the need to administer increasing dosages of the drug over time in order to retain the same level of effectiveness. As a result, the patient receives less of the drug and is less likely to become addicted.

The effective qualities of morphine can decline quickly. In long-term use of the drug for pain relief, there is rapid development of tolerance. To get the same level of relief, the patient has to continue to increase the dosage. While the patient may relieve the pain, he or she will experience increased negative side effects.

In their research, Hebrew University’s Prof. Yehuda Shavit and his graduate student Gilly Wolf of the Psychology Department found that when morphine is administered, it releases a substance called interleukin-1. In normal circumstances, this substance plays an important role in survival. This is the substance that alerts the body to a problem that should have pain associated with it. This pain then serves as a warning signal.

Over time, the prolonged administration of morphine raises the level of interleukin-1, enhancing the patient’s pain sensitivity. As a result, the effectiveness of morphine as a pain killer is steadily reduced, requiring greater dosages over time.

In this study, researchers were able to show that administering morphine together with another drug that blocks the activity of interleukin-1 provides more effective pain relief over the long term without having to increase the dosage. If these tests prove applicable in humans, it could greatly impact the use of morphine for pain and prevent addiction

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