Neurochemical Research

, Volume 21, Issue 11, pp 1375–1386

Effects of opioids on the immune system

  • Sabita Roy
  • Horace H. Loh
Physiology and Behavior

DOI: 10.1007/BF02532379

Cite this article as:
Roy, S. & Loh, H.H. Neurochem Res (1996) 21: 1375. doi:10.1007/BF02532379


Both therapeutic and chronic uses of opioids compromise the optimal functioning of the immune system. Overwhelming evidence suggests that opioid use affects both innate immunity and adaptive immunity. Chronic administration of opioids decreases the proliferative capacity of macrophage progenitor cells and lymphocytes. Additionally, the differentiated function of immune cells is significantly affected by opioids. These effects are mediated by either a direct action of opioids on the target cells or by indirect centrally mediated pathways. Molecular biological and biochemical characterization suggest that immune cells differentially express classical opioid receptors. Interestingly, these studies also reveal the presence of a novel class of opioid receptors in immune cells. We believe that this low affinity morphine binding site mediates the antiproliferative effects of morphine.

Key Words

Opioids immune system 

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sabita Roy
    • 1
  • Horace H. Loh
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PharmacologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolis