Can Using DXM To Help Treat Chronic Pain Lead To Less Abuse?

By John Lavitt 11/12/15

Researchers may have found a better way to treat neuropathic pain with a lower risk of drug abuse.

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A new animal study designed to address neuropathic pain has made an intriguing breakthrough. By combining DXM with oxycodone, the effectiveness of the oxycodone heightened while allowing the dose of the opioid pain reliever to be decreased. Although in preliminary animal trials, the study could lead to better treatment of chronic pain.

Neuropathic pain is very difficult to treat. As a complex, chronic pain state, the nerve fibers causing neuropathic pain tend to be damaged, dysfunctional, or injured. Such damaged nerve fibers send incorrect signals to other pain centers. Although opioids are the best analgesics for cancer and surgical pain in clinic, oxycodone has specifically shown a better efficacy to alleviate neuropathic pain.

The many side effects associated with the use of oxycodone from addiction to increased tolerance, however, render the expanded and increased use of it in neuropathic pain treatment undesirable. The new study explored whether DXM, or dextromethorphan, could potentiate the anti-allodynic effect of oxycodone. Typical in both chronic pain patients and migraine sufferers, allodynia is a pain produced by innocuous stimulation of normal skin.

As described by the researchers, “Since oxycodone still has high abused and addictive potential and all the side effects of opiates at the therapeutic doses, the second aim of our study was to investigate whether DXM at a dose that did not have anti-allodynic effect by itself could potentiate the effect of oxycodone on treatment of neuropathic pain and therefore decrease the effective dose of oxycodone in a mice model.”

Commonly abused by teenagers, DXM, sold over-the-counter as cough suppressant, is not considered an added risk for chronic pain patients. The drug has no anti-allodynic effect by itself, and the combined use of dextromethorphan with oxycodone may have therapeutic potential for decreasing the effective dose of oxycodone.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.