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Behav Res Ther. 1999 Jan;37(1):77-86.

No interactive effects of naltrexone and benzodiazepines on pain during phobic fear.

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Department of Medical Psychology, Maastricht University, The Netherlands.


Animal research has shown that anxiety may inhibit pain through the release of endogenous opioids. On the other hand, anxiety is often believed to exacerbate pain in clinical situations, and anxiety reduction has been shown to attenuate the affective component of pain. In the present study phobic anxiety was induced by confronting forty-eight spider phobic subjects with a spider, after which they received two mildly painful electrical stimuli at two different current levels. The benzodiazepine alprazolam (1 mg) was administered to investigate the influence on pain of a reduction in anxiety, while the role of endogenous opioids was studied by administering the opioid antagonist naltrexone (50 mg). Alprazolam resulted in lower anxiety and pain ratings during pain stimulation, supporting the idea that (presumably pain-related) anxiety may increase the experience of pain. Naltrexone did not influence pain and anxiety ratings, nor was there a significant interaction between the two pharmacological manipulations. These findings confirm previous evidence that phobic fear does not necessarily induce an endogenous opioid-mediated analgesia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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