Oct 27, 2016 | Updated: 09:37 AM EST

Study Links Morphine To Brain Changes

Jan 16, 2016 11:12 AM EST

Morphine is a type of effective painkiller drug used to treat aching body parts such as the head or lower back. However, a new study revealed that morphine used for lower back pain can actually trigger rapid changes in the brain.

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In a recent study conducted by a team of researchers led by Dr. Joanne Lin, a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, shows that using morphine pills for lower back pain can gradually reduce the brain's gray matter. The group started the study by doing a 30 day experiment on 21 patients.

The team was then grouped into two. The first 11 received daily morphine pills while the remaining 10 got placebo as their treatment.

The study coordinators were able to find out that due to morphine that is present in the system, various brain regions thought to regulate emotions, cravings and responses to pain and volume, saw a 3 percent decrease when it comes to the volume of the brain's gray matter.

Those parts that are responsible for learning, memory and executive function gained a visible amount. However, those patients who received placebo as a treatment did not show even the slightest chemical change in the brain after the study ended.

According to Dr. Lin, since the results of the study showed that opioids medication imposes rapid changes in the brain's system, they are going to remind the public to only resort to these when every other option available to ease the pain have failed.

She also added that even though the study did not show the main reason why people are getting addicted to opioid drugs, their findings can serve as the first step to examine rapid brain changes and pinpoint possible targets to fully understand the issue of drug addiction and prevent possible negative opioids related incidents from happening.

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