New Study Reports Painkillers Lead to Side Effects in Dementia

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Researchers from University of Exeter suggested that use of opioid painkillers in dementia could cause severe side effects.

Researchers from the University of Exeter, in collaboration with King’s College London and the University of Bergen reported a study at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2018 (AAIC), held in Chicago, Illinois during July 22-26, that details the increase in harmful side effects related to prescription of opioid-based painkillers in people suffering from dementia. The researchers studied 162 Norwegian care home residents in a randomized controlled trial and found a significant rise in side effects including, personality changes, confusion and sedation. Such side effects lead to severe impact on people suffering from dementia. Opioid-based painkillers are often used in treatment of dementia due to their ability to ease pain effectively. However, it often comes with adverse effects. Around half of people with dementia who are living in care homes experience clinically significant pain. Buprenorphine—a commonly used opioid-based painkiller was related to harmful side-effects that were more than tripled. Furthermore, patients prescribed with buprenorphine were significantly less active during the day.

The researchers studied effects of opioid-based painkillers on mouse models suffering from Alzheimer’s. It was observed that Alzheimer’s mice were sensitive to morphine while treating for arthritis. These mice experienced more adverse effects when normal doses of morphine was injected in them. Furthermore, it was analyzed that the Alzheimer’s mice produced more of the body’s natural endogenous opioids such as endorphins.  However, the mice without Alzheimer’s were less sensitive to opioid-based painkillers. The researchers concluded that use of opioid- based painkillers needs to be regulated in patients suffering from dementia to prevent unnecessary harm and deaths.


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