Siri Leknes – Why opioids are overrated for pleasure and pain


In recent years, systematic, well-controlled studies of opioid analgesics suggest little benefit from opioid treatment of chronic pain or even of acute musculoskeletal pain. In addition to reducing pain, opioid drugs change a cascade of other feelings, such as increased nausea, constipation and sedation that limit their clinical utility. The numerous unpleasant opioid effects are also thought to substantially dampen any opioid-induced pleasure.


‘Opioids are famous for their ability to relieve pain and cause pleasure’. These mythical effects may however be just that: mythical

About this event
Opium, morphine and other opioids are famous for their ability to relieve pain and cause pleasure. These mythical effects may however be just that: mythical.

In healthy people who do not regularly use opioids, the sum total is frequently a disliking of opioid drug effects. Healthy people will sometimes even pay money to *avoid* getting another opioid! I will discuss the evidence on how opioids change how people feel, and discuss how some of these opioid-related myths have become so persistent in science and society.

Prof. Siri Leknes

Siri Leknes is a Professor of Social and Affective Neuroscience at the University of Oslo, Norway and Senior Researcher at Oslo University Hospital. She completed her D.Phil. at Oxford and postdoctoral research at Gothenburg University. Her lab in Oslo, the Leknes Affective Brain lab (LAB lab), studies how the brain and body give rise to pleasurable and painful feelings. One interdisciplinary project centred on benefits of acute pain and was awarded The Daniel M. Wegner Theoretical Innovation Prize in social/personality psychology. Currently, LAB lab specialises in drug studies. Through psychopharmacology in healthy humans, Leknes’ team charts how the brain’s neurochemical systems shape hedonic feelings, decisions and behaviour. LAB lab also conducts studies in drug-treated clinical populations. Leknes is currently funded by an ERC grant to study state-dependent effects of opioids and their relation to social support, stress and dopamine, as well as by the Regional Health Authority to study mood, stress and pain in clinical groups treated with opioid agonists and antagonists.