UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Morphine Withdrawal-Induced Hyperalgesia in Models of Acute and Extended Withdrawal is Attenuated by l-Tetrahydropalmatine Oleinichenko, Daria; Ahn, Soyon; Song, Ru; Snutch, Terrance P.; Phillips, Anthony G.


Effective pain control is an underappreciated aspect of managing opioid withdrawal, and its absence presents a significant barrier to successful opioid detoxification. Accordingly, there is an urgent need for effective non-opioid treatments to facilitate opioid detoxification. l-Tetrahydropalmatine (l-THP) possesses powerful analgesic properties and is an active ingredient in botanical formulations used in Vietnam for the treatment of opioid withdrawal syndrome. In this study, rats receiving morphine (15 mg/kg, i.p.) for 5 days per week displayed a progressive increase in pain thresholds during acute 23 h withdrawal as assessed by an automated Von Frey test. A single dose of l-THP (5 or 7.5 mg/kg, p.o.) administered during the 4th and 5th weeks of morphine treatment significantly improves pain tolerance scores. A 7-day course of l-THP treatment in animals experiencing extended withdrawal significantly attenuates hyperalgesia and reduces the number of days to recovery to baseline pain thresholds by 61% when compared to vehicle-treated controls. This indicates that the efficacy of l-THP on pain perception extends beyond its half-life. As a non-opioid treatment for reversing a significant hyperalgesic state during withdrawal, l-THP may be a valuable addition to the currently limited arsenal of opioid detoxification treatments.

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