Pain medications suppress immune system?


Question from Lisa: Do pain meds, especially opiates, suppress the immune system?
Answers - Michelle Rhiner Dr. John Liebeskind is well known or quoted as having said that pain kills. This is probably very accurate, as pain—when it's chronic in nature—will actually depress the immune system. Taking pain medication may, in fact, help the immune system by allowing you to improve your quality of life and enjoy pain relief.
Neal Slatkin We have to say that there is literature on opioids causing immune suppression. There have been a number of animal studies suggesting that opiates can have an effect on the immune system. There are even some studies that show that opiates can, in certain circumstances, either cause tumors to grow tissue culture faster or, conversely, slower.

This is an area of active investigation. At this time, there is no clinical evidence that opiates cause significant suppression of the immune system, to a point where it is of clinical significance.

On Wednesday, January 21, 2004, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Pain Management: Getting the Relief YOU Need. Neal Slatkin, M.D., Michelle Rhiner, N.P. and moderator Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. answered your questions about the best ways to deal with the physical pain and discomforts associated with breast cancer and breast cancer treatment.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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