, Volume 21, Issue 11, pp 1375-1386
Date: 21 Mar 2013

Effects of opioids on the immune system

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Abstract

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.

Special issue dedicated to Dr. Eric J. Simon.