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Original Research

Double-Blind Treatment With Oral Morphine in Treatment-Resistant Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Lorrin M. Koran, MD; Elias Aboujaoude, MD, MA; Kim D. Bullock, MD; Bettina Franz, MD, PhD; Nona Gamel, MSW; and Michael Elliott, MA

Published: March 15, 2005

Article Abstract

Background: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) often responds inadequately to serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs). A case series reported substantial response to once-weekly oral morphine. We conducted a placebo-controlled, double-blind trial to investigate whether once-weekly oral morphine is effective in SRI-resistant OCD.

Method: Subjects with DSM-IV-defined OCD for >= 3 years who had failed >= 2 adequate SRI trials and had a Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) score of >= 20 were recruited. Current medications were continued. Subjects were randomly assigned to random-order, 2-week blocks of once-weekly morphine, lorazepam, and placebo. Week 2 dosage was increased, decreased, or maintained depending on response and side effects.

Results: We enrolled 23 subjects, who had failed 2 to 6 SRI trials. The median screening Y-BOCS score was 29. The median Y-BOCS score after morphine (highest dose) was 25 (median decrease = 13%). Seven subjects (30%) were responders (Y-BOCS decreases >= 25%). The median Y-BOCS score after lorazepam (highest dose) was 27 (median decrease = 6%). Four subjects (17%) responded to lorazepam; 1 was a morphine responder. The median Y-BOCS score after placebo (highest dose) was 27 (median decrease = 7%), and no subject responded. Responses differed significantly among the 3 conditions (Friedman 2-way analysis of variance, chi r2 = 13.92, df = 2, p = .01). Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed-rank tests (T = 56.5, p = .05) showed significance for morphine versus placebo but not lorazepam versus placebo.

Conclusion: Our results support the hypothesis that once-weekly oral morphine can reduce symptoms in some treatment-resistant OCD patients. The mechanism of action is unknown. Further studies of mu-agonists and glutamate antagonists are warranted.

Volume: 66

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