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Opioid-induced hyperalgesia: when pain killers make pain worse
  1. Anshuni Kaneria
  1. East Sussex Healthcare Trust, Eastbourne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anshuni Kaneria, anshuni.kaneria{at}


A 44-year-old woman had a temporal glioma and was admitted to the hospice with pain that was not controlled despite escalating opioids. Her pain levels rose after every dose increase resulting now in continuous pain, making her very low in mood. Her short-term memory had also declined in a stepwise fashion with each increase in opioids. Additionally, her poor health had had a detrimental effect on family life. Physical examination was difficult due to allodynia but no major abnormality was found. The team suspected opioid-induced hyperalgesia and decided to cut the patient's opioids by one-third initially. This immediately improved the overall pain. The opioids continued to be decreased incrementally every 1–2 days until the pain had disappeared completely. She was stabilised on a dose almost one-seventh of her original regime. Mood and memory also improved as opioids decreased and she was discharged home after 8 days.

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