If you’ve ever taken morphine only to have your pain increase, then you may suffer from morphine hypersensitivity. For those suffering from chronic pain, it can be terrible and despairing to find out that morphine only makes your pain worse. But there is new research being conducted which is revealing how morphine hypersensitivity works, offering new hope to people who experience it.
The research was published in Nature Neuroscience and reported on by Medical News Today. Researchers discovered that hypersensitivity is not related to morphine tolerance, as was previously thought. Where those with a morphine tolerance require increased doses to experience relief, those with hypersensitivity experience more and more pain as doses are increased. It used to be assumed that the two conditions were related, but the new research reveals very separate mechanisms are at work.
The researchers discovered specialized cells in the spinal cord and indentified a particular protein that is responsible for hypersensitivity in certain people. The protein, K, is inhibited by morphine. That inhibiting process is key to why patients experience more pain with morphine. It is hoped that further experimentation will reveal ways to restore normal levels of KCC2 and thereby eliminate morphine hypersensitivity.
Dr. Michael Salter, co-author of the research, was quoted by Medical News Today as saying that the discovery “could have a major impact on individuals with various types of intractable pain, such as that associated with cancer or nerve damage, who have stopped morphine or other opiate medications because of pain hypersensitivity.