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Relative and Age-dependent Stimulation of Soluble and Cellular Immunity in Opiate Dependence

Reece, Albert S. MBBS, FRCS, FRACGP, MD

Journal of Addiction Medicine: March 2012 - Volume 6 - Issue 1 - p 10–17
doi: 10.1097/ADM.0b013e31822c3bf4
Original Research

Objective: There is considerable recent interest in immunostimulation caused by opiates, but, although there is intense interest in this process within the central nervous system particularly in connection with the pathways underlying chronic pain, few studies set out to define the course of clinical markers of this process in the systemic circulation or over the temporal span of the life course.

Methods: For this reason, we have compared clinical pathology results from 1747 opiate substance use disorder with 6450 non–substance use disorder patients taken from our clinical pathology database. All continuous data were transformed to their natural logarithm to improve normality assumptions.

Results: Globulins, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, white cell count, lymphocytes, monocytes, and platelets were all high in substance use disorder (P ≤ 0.01). These variables, C-reactive protein, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, and neutrophils were all high at multiple regression when corrected for age (P < 0.0001) in both sexes (P ≤ 0.01). There were significant interactions between age and addictive status for C-reactive protein, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, globulins, white cell count, and lymphocytes and monocytes (P < 0.01).

Conclusions: These results are consistent with immunostimulation affecting soluble and cellular elements of the blood both in relative terms and after correction for age. They are consistent with other data showing diffuse and generalized immunostimulation like the high-risk polyclonal immunosenescent gammopathy seen in the very elderly known as “inflamm-aging” that carries an uncommonly poor prognosis for longevity. As such, it merits further detailed investigation.

From the School of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, University of Western Australia, Highgate Hill, Queensland, Australia.

Send correspondence and reprint requests to Albert S. Reece, School of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, University of Western Australia, 39 Gladstone Rd, Highgate Hill, Queensland 4101, Australia. E-mail:

The authors state that they have no proprietary interest in the products named in this article.

Received January 27, 2011

Accepted July 04, 2011

© 2012 American Society of Addiction Medicine