Chronic pain is a serious problem that interferes with all aspects of one’s life. Studies have shown that pain is associated with the brain, the spinal cord and the nerves. A study conducted by the scientists at the Georgia State University pointed at the immune system as central to chronic pain. Published in the Journal of Neuroscience in March 2017, the study threw light on why female bodies responded differently to opioid medication in comparison to men. It also highlighted the role of immune system in chronic painful conditions.
The present study aimed to establish microglia as the root cause of chronic pain. Microglia are the macrophages of the brain as they devour damaged cells. In normal conditions, microglia are in a resting phase, but whenever there is some damage in the brain, they increase in size by feeding on the damaged cells. Even degenerative disorders like dementia are assumed to be associated with microglia activity. Microglia also play an important role in forming connectivity between neurons.
Variant microglia responsible for increased opioid intake in women with chronic pain
To understand whether microglial activity had anything to do with the requirement of twice or thrice the amount of morphine by women as compared to men in similar pain, the scientists performed a series of experiments on mice. They found that when the activity of the microglia was completely suppressed in female mice, their response to opioid medication was similar to men. Thus, they no longer required double or triple doses of morphine.
Male brains also have microglia, however, according to the researchers, “While no overall sex differences in the density of microglia were reported, microglia exhibited a more “activated” phenotype in females.” This study proves that women experience debilitating levels of pain, whether it be post-operative pain or arthritis-induced pain. Moreover, the after effects of pain linger for longer periods in women and it takes more than the usual dosage of painkillers to nullify it. Though the study is still in its infancy, it is expected that somewhere down the line microglia alteration therapies would significantly eliminate chronic pain experienced by women.
Road to recovery
It has been found that women are more likely to benefit from potent painkillers than men, in response to the same level of pain. In a clinical setting, women are likely to receive sedatives while men are provided with painkillers, primarily due to the misconception that women are more anxious when in chronic pain. Previous studies have shown that minor tranquilizers, antidepressants and non-opioid analgesics are standard treatment for women, whereas men are more likely to be treated with opioid medications.
Various reasons have been attributed to the constant abuse of prescription drugs, most common being prolonged pain afflicting those suffering from a range of health issues or from injuries. Misuse due to any reason can result in adverse results affecting mental and physical health of a person. People must be careful because long-term opioid use can lead to addiction that can cause other complications. Though opioids are touted as a necessity in favor of patients in pain, tendency to overdose on them and consequent addiction levels as a result of incessant abuse has sent the American population in a tizzy.
If you or your loved one is battling opioid abuse, it is time to seek treatment at professional treatment centers in the U.S. The Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline can help you find one of the best prescription drug abuse treatment centers near you. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-450-1557 to know about the best prescription drug abuse treatment centers in the U.S.