Gabapentin improves cold-pressor pain responses in methadone-maintained patients

Peggy Compton, Priscilla Kehoe, Karabi Sinha, Matt A. Torrington, Walter Ling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Individuals on methadone maintenance for the treatment of addiction (MM) are demonstrated to be hyperalgesic to cold-pressor pain in comparison to matched controls and ex-opioid addicts, a finding described as clinical evidence of opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). Interestingly, opioids induce hyperalgesia via many of the same neuro-inflammatory and central sensitization processes that occur with the development of neuropathic pain. Evaluated in this study was the efficacy of a key pharmacotherapy for neuropathic pain, gabapentin (GPN), to reverse OIH in MM patients. Utilizing a clinical trial design and double blind conditions, changes in cold-pressor pain threshold and tolerance following a 5-week trial of GPN (titrated to 2400. mg/day) were evaluated at peak and trough methadone plasma levels in a well-characterized MM sample. Drug abstinence was encouraged via an escalating payment schedule, and compliance monitored via pill counts and GPN plasma levels; entered into the analyses were only those subjects compliant and abstinent throughout the study (approximately 45%). Utilizing change scores from baseline, significant improvements in cold-pressor pain threshold and pain tolerance were observed at both peak and trough methadone levels (p<0.05). Notably, drop-out rates due to medication side effects were low (2%) and the medication was well-tolerated. These results support that GPN, as prescribed for the treatment of neuropathic pain, is effective in decreasing OIH in patients who are abstinent and stable in methadone treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-219
Number of pages7
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Gabapentin
  • Hyperalgesia
  • Methadone
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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