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Papers of the Week

Papers: 6 Jun 2020 - 12 Jun 2020

Human Studies

2020 May 01




Opioid-induced Somatic Activation: Prevalence in a Population of Patients With Chronic Pain.


Barbour A, Asbury ML, Riordan PA, Webb JA, Prakken SD
Cureus. 2020 May 01; 12(5):e7911.
PMID: 32494526.


Context and objective Opioids have heterogeneous side effects including a well-known effect of sedation; however, the opposing effect of stimulation, or somatic activation, has been largely ignored or overlooked. The objective of this study is to determine the prevalence of opioid-induced somatic activation (OISA). Methods We conducted a retrospective chart review of 189 patients seen by a single clinical psychiatrist/pain specialist. During the initial encounter, the clinician took a standardized history of every opioid currently or previously taken by the patients, and enquired if the patients had experienced a somatically activating or sedating effect per opioid. Results Patients recalled an average exposure to 5.1 opioids (SD: 1.9). Ninety-one patients (48.1%; mean: 1.6) reported somatic activation, while 118 (62.4%; mean: 1.7) reported sedation from at least one opioid. Fifty-eight patients (30.7%) identified at least one opioid as activating, and another as sedating. The distribution of OISA did not significantly differ by gender, race, primary pain diagnosis, or depression. The distribution of OISA by oxycodone significantly differed compared to morphine sulfate (27.3% vs 8.9%; p: 0.005), while sedation did not (29.0% vs 24.3%; p: 0.46). Conclusions In this study, we quantified the previously unstudied phenomenon of OISA. This phenomenon appears dependent on opioid type with some opioids, such as oxycodone, appearing more likely to have this effect. Given current concerns about the risks of opioids in high-risk populations, future studies are needed to study this phenomenon to arrive at an accurate determination of the potential risks and benefits of OISA.