Study finds reason why chronic pain and opioid use disorder are often linked

Patients with central sensitization struggle more with pain and quitting opioids

There’s always been a commonsense link between opioid use disorder and chronic pain, but a new study found how patients with central sensitization struggle more than others.

Central sensitization is abnormal pain processing in the brain and spinal cord, and those that have it experience higher pain levels than those who do not, and their brains struggle to turn off the pain signals once they arrive.

Scientists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine and University of Michigan Medical School examined how individuals with OUD are affected by central sensitization.

The study provides the first evidence of central sensitization underlying the chronic pain and opioid use disorder relationship. Study findings are published in the journal PAIN Reports.

Researchers say that chronic pain may lead to OUD, and people with chronic pain and OUD have a harder time quitting opioids than people with OUD only. The more central sensitization patients had, the worse their quality of life among patients with OUD, and the more likely they were to report that chronic pain was the reason they became addicted.

This study suggests central sensitization may be an important underlying factor complicating the treatment of chronic pain and OUD. This provides an example for other clinicians and researchers to measure central sensitization in OUD, which could help them produce better treatments for people suffering with chronic pain and OUD.