Researchers find anti-depressants reduce pain in opioid-dependent patients

November 3, 2011

In what is believed to be the first study of its kind to demonstrate an association between the antidepressant escitalopram and improved general pain, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), have found that opioid-dependent patients treated with escitalopram experienced meaningful reductions in pain severity and pain interference during the first three months of therapy. These findings appear in the journal Pain.

Pain is common in opioid-dependent patients yet pharmacologic strategies are limited. Among methadone-treated patients, estimates of chronic pain prevalence range between 37-61 percent. Management of pain in opioid-dependent patients is a clinical challenge given concerns for opioid abuse and misuse among individuals with prior substance use disorders. Yet unresolved pain may be a risk factor for relapse among patients whose pain is not fully treated.

According to the authors antidepressants may constitute an appealing option for treating pain in opioid-dependent patients because of the frequent coexistence of depression in this population. The use of (SSRIs) for chronic pain conditions has been less well studied.

The study used from a randomized, controlled trial that evaluated the effects of escitalopram on treatment retention in patients with who were initiating / for treatment of opioid dependence. Participants were randomized to receive 10 m.g. of escitalopram or a placebo daily. Changes in pain severity, pain interference and depression were assessed at one, two and three-month visits with the visual analog scale, Brief Pain Inventory, and the II, respectively.

"This study found that treatment with escitalopram resulted in significantly decreased pain severity and interference over time, with a nearly 30 percent reduction in pain severity after one month compared to control," explained lead author Judith Tsui, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at BUSM. "Adjusting for within-subject changes in depression scores did not affect the effects of escitalopram, suggesting the analgesic properties of escitalopram were independent of its antidepressant effects," she said.

Tsui stresses that more research is needed on the use of nonnarcotic medications such as SSRIs to treat pain in opioid-dependent populations. "Alternative, non-opioid pharmacologic therapies are needed to address pain in opioid-dependent populations."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

We've all got a blind spot, but it can be shrunk

August 31, 2015

You've probably never noticed, but the human eye includes an unavoidable blind spot. That's because the optic nerve that sends visual signals to the brain must pass through the retina, which creates a hole in that light-sensitive ...

Biologists identify mechanisms of embryonic wound repair

August 31, 2015

It's like something out of a science-fiction movie - time-lapse photography showing how wounds in embryos of fruit flies heal themselves. The images are not only real; they shed light on ways to improve wound recovery in ...

New 'Tissue Velcro' could help repair damaged hearts

August 28, 2015

Engineers at the University of Toronto just made assembling functional heart tissue as easy as fastening your shoes. The team has created a biocompatible scaffold that allows sheets of beating heart cells to snap together ...

Research identifies protein that regulates body clock

August 26, 2015

New research into circadian rhythms by researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga shows that the GRK2 protein plays a major role in regulating the body's internal clock and points the way to remedies for jet lag ...

Fertilization discovery: Do sperm wield tiny harpoons?

August 26, 2015

Could the sperm harpoon the egg to facilitate fertilization? That's the intriguing possibility raised by the University of Virginia School of Medicine's discovery that a protein within the head of the sperm forms spiky filaments, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.