The majority of people taking opioid painkillers for chronic back pain produced antibodies against the drugs, according to a recent University of Wisconsin- Madison study.
These antibodies may be a contributing factor to the negative side effects of long-term opioid use.
Researchers studied 19 patients, 10 of whom developed antibodies against protein-bound opioids, the higher the dosage of opioids, the stronger the antibody response.
Researchers conducted a several-month-long radio and printed recruiting campaign, but could only find three patients with chronic pain who had not previously taken opioids. These patients developed only very low levels of anti-opioid antibodies.
Under the right condition, the immune system can produce antibodies against psychoactive drugs. A greater understanding of this process could help with the production of a vaccine that would reduce the pleasurable feelings the drugs produce in the brain. A vaccine would work by producing antibodies capable of neutralizing the drugs.
Trials of vaccines for cocaine and nicotine had limited success. This is because of differences in how the body produces antibodies.
Patients who already produce a measurable antibody response produce a relatively weak type of antibody, and this could reduce their ability to generate stronger antibodies against the same drug.