Is the pain-reducing effect of opioid medication reliable? A psychophysical study of morphine and pentazocine analgesia

Academic Article


  • A number of laboratory studies have confirmed the efficacy of opioid medication in reducing pain generated by a number of psychophysical modalities. However, one implicit assumption of clinical and experimental pain testing of analgesics is that the analgesic response is stable and will be comparable across repeated administrations. In the current study, the repeatability of opioid analgesia was assessed in a randomized, double-blinded study using 3 psychophysical pain modalities (e.g., thermal, pressure, and ischemic) over 4 medication sessions (2 with active drug, 2 with placebo). Psychophysical responses were evaluated before and after intravenous administration of either morphine (0.08 mg/kg; n = 52) or pentazocine (0.5 mg/kg; n = 49). To determine the ability of a drug to reduce pain, 4 analytic methods (i.e., absolute change, percent change, ratio, and residualized change scores) were calculated to generate separate analgesic index scores for each measure and drug condition. All analgesic index scores demonstrated a greater analgesic response compared to saline for both medications, but stability (i.e., test-retest correlations) of the opioid analgesic indices depended on the pain measurement. Ischemic pain outcomes were moderately stable across sessions for both opioid medications; however, heat and pressure analgesic index scores were moderately stable for only morphine and pentazocine, respectively. Finally, within stimulus modalities, analgesic index scores were highly correlated with each other, suggesting that the different methods for computing analgesic responses provided comparable results. These results suggest that analgesic measures are able to distinguish between active drugs. In addition, analgesic responses to morphine and pentazocine demonstrate at least moderate reliability. © 2013 Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of International Association for the Study of Pain.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • PAIN  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • King CD; Goodin B; Glover TL; Riley JL; Hou W; Staud R; Fillingim RB
  • Start Page

  • 476
  • End Page

  • 483
  • Volume

  • 154
  • Issue

  • 3