Morphine And Other Opioids

Several studies have drawn a parallelism between MORPHINE abuse and immune inhibition. In vitro studies have shown that polymorphonuclear cells and monocytes form in patients subjected to morphine treatment but that they were severely depressed in their phagocytic and killing properties as well as in their ability to generate superoxide. OPIOID addiction also caused alterations in the frequencies of T-cells and null lymphocytes in human peripheral blood.

There is convincing evidence of the presence of opioid receptors on various types of human immune cells. The presence of opioid receptors on immune cells may allow for modulation of specific immune functions in the presence of exogenous opiates. Various administration schedules for opi-oids were shown to potentiate infections by Klebsiella pneumoniae and Candida albicans. The increased susceptibility was partly due to a decrease in reticuloendothelial-system activity as well as a reduction in the number of phagocytes, not by a direct cytotoxic effect of the opioid.

Chronic administration of morphine has also inhibited a primary antibody response of mice. These effects were worsened by naloxone (a nonaddictive analog of morphine), indicating that morphine inhibits the immune system in a specific manner— via its interaction with opioid receptors. Other studies in animals have shown that morphine can affect NK cell activity, perhaps yielding reduced resistance to tumors.

Such changes, which can also include morphine suppression of spleen and body weight, show evidence of significant changes in immune functions.

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