Opioids and its harmful effects on recovery

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Opioids, such as morphine, are among the most widely prescribed medications for the treatment of pain. Patients with a spinal cord injury receive opioids within hours of arrival at the emergency room. They are also often used for longer times.
Using an experimental model, a team of scientists around Dr. Michelle Hook from the Texas A&M Health Science Center showed that opioids have a deleterious effect. Opioids induce a tissue loss at the injury site and also diminish the functional recovery, even weeks after treatment. The study found that opioids exacerbate the inflammatory response. 

Minocycline to the rescue
The antibiotic minocycline is currently being tested in a clinical trial as it seems to improve functional recovery after spinal cord injury. Dr. Hook and her colleagues found that minocycline was also able to block the negative effect of opioids. More importantly, this was achieved without disrupting the analgesic efficacy of the opioid!

This study sheds an interesting light on the possible mechanism by which minocycline could improve functional recovery in patients. It was published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.


Source: “Morphine increases macrophages at the lesion site following spinal cord injury: Protective effects of minocycline” by Aceves M, Terminel MN, Okoreeh A, Aceves AR, Gong YM, Polanco A, Sohrabji F and Hook MA. Published in January 2019 in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.