Morphine self-administration following spinal cord injury. Academic Article uri icon


  • Neuropathic pain develops in up to two-thirds of people following spinal cord injury (SCI). Opioids are among the most effective treatments for this pain and are commonly prescribed. There is concern surrounding the use of these analgesics, however, because use is often associated with the development of addiction. Previous data suggests that this concern may not be relevant in the presence of neuropathic pain. Yet, despite the common prescription of opioids for the treatment of SCI-related pain, there has been only one previous study examining the addictive potential of morphine following spinal injury. To address this, the present study used a self-administration paradigm to examine the addictive potential of morphine in a rodent model of SCI. Animals were placed into self-administration chambers 24 h, 14 d, or 35 d following a moderate spinal contusion injury. They were placed into the chambers for seven 12-hour sessions with access to 1.5 mg morphine/lever depression (up to 30 mg/d). In the acute phase of SCI, contused animals self-administered significantly less morphine than their sham counterparts, as previously shown. However, contused animals showing signs of neuropathic pain did not self-administer less morphine than their sham counterparts when administration began 14 or 35 d after injury. Instead, these animals administered nearly the full amount of morphine available each session. This amount of morphine did not affect recovery of locomotor function but did cause significant weight loss. We suggest caution is warranted when prescribing opioids for the treatment of neuropathic pain resulting from SCI, as the addictive potential is not reduced in this model.

published proceedings

  • J Neurotrauma

author list (cited authors)

  • Woller, S. A., Malik, J. S., Aceves, M., & Hook, M. A.

citation count

  • 12

complete list of authors

  • Woller, Sarah A||Malik, Jamal S||Aceves, Miriam||Hook, Michelle A

publication date

  • January 2014