Turning off the “switch”: Preserving the analgesic actions of the endogenous opioid pathway in IBD

Abdominal pain is a debilitating symptom for many patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). An endogenous opioid system emerges in the intestinal tissues during chronic inflammation that acts to dampen such pain and could prevent the need for strong opiate drugs like morphine that can cause serious side effects. However, we have discovered that psychological stress, common in patients with IBD, can block the beneficial analgesic actions of these endogenous opioids and paradoxically can cause them to actually stimulate rather than relieve pain. Similarly, sustained higher dose opioid drugs also block the beneficial actions of the endogenous opioid pathway. Together, these effects on the endogenous opioid system lead to increased pain and if opioid drugs are needed, escalating dosing and potentially serious side effects. 

Faculty Supervisor:

Stephen Vanner


Cintya Lopez-Lopez


Crohn’s and Colitis Canada




Medical devices




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