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Across centuries and civilizations opioids have been used to relieve pain. In our modern societies, opioid-based analgesics remain one of the most efficient treatments for acute pain. However, the long-term use of opioids can lead to the development of analgesic tolerance, opioid-induced hyperalgesia, opioid use disorders, and overdose, which can ultimately produce respiratory depressant effects with fatal consequences. In addition to the nociceptive sensory component of pain, negative affective states arising from persistent pain represent a risk factor for developing an opioid use disorder. Several studies have indicated that the increase in prescribed opioid analgesics since the 1990s represents the root of our current opioid epidemic. In this review, we will present our current knowledge on the endogenous opioid system within the pain neuroaxis and the plastic changes occurring in this system that may underlie the occurrence of pain-induced negative affect leading to misuse and abuse of opioid medications. Dissecting the allostatic neuronal changes occurring during pain is the most promising avenue to uncover novel targets for the development of safer pain medications. We will discuss this along with current and potential approaches to treat pain-induced negative affective states that lead to drug misuse. Moreover, this chapter will provide a discussion on potential avenues to reduce the abuse potential of new analgesic drugs and highlight a basis for future research and drug development based on recent advances in this field.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNeurobiology of Addiction and Co-Morbid Disorders
EditorsErin S. Calipari, Nicholas W. Gilpin
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages38
ISBN (Print)9780128203552
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Publication series

NameInternational Review of Neurobiology
ISSN (Print)0074-7742
ISSN (Electronic)2162-5514


  • Addiction
  • Analgesia
  • Negative affect
  • Opioid use disorders
  • Opioids
  • Pain


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