Psychophysiology of pain and opioid use: implications for managing pain in patients with an opioid use disorder

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Mental and Social Health | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology | Substance Abuse and Addiction


BACKGROUND: Opioid therapy is one component of an effective pain management regimen for patients with chronic pain and the majority of these patients use their medications responsibly. However, there are a growing number of these patients who develop an opioid use disorder and in some cases require opioid replacement therapy. Managing these patients is complex and the underlying mechanisms of pain and addiction are not well understood. Developing an effective interdisciplinary treatment program for the individual with pain and an opioid use disorder will depend on enhancing our knowledge of the psychophysiology of pain and addiction.

METHOD: Authors gathered key empirical and theoretical papers examining the psychophysiology of comorbid pain and opioid misuse disorders. RESULTS: This article reviews the current theory of the effect of pain on patients with pain and concomitant addiction, the psychophysiology of pain, opioid use and addiction, and future research in this area.

CONCLUSIONS: Individuals with a history of opioid misuse have greater levels of hyperalgesia which may be due to alterations in psychophysiological pathways. More research is needed into the psychophysiological biomarkers among individuals with comorbid pain and addiction in order to develop better treatment approaches and improve outcomes among this difficult to treat population.

DOI of Published Version



Wachholtz A, Foster S, Cheatle M. Psychophysiology of pain and opioid use: implications for managing pain in patients with an opioid use disorder. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015 Jan 1;146:1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2014.10.023. Epub 2014 Nov 6. PubMed PMID: 25468815; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4272859. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Drug and alcohol dependence

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID