Some antidepressants may act on pain regulators. A recent Australian study could lead to the development of new solutions to relieve chronic suffering. Decryption with Géraldine Zamansky, journalist for Health Magazine on France 5.
franceinfo: Have these Australian researchers really found a new treatment?
Geraldine Zamansky: Almost. In fact, the story of this discovery begins in the 1960s. We then see the positive side effect of antidepressant treatments. They sometimes also reduce the intensity of patients’ chronic pain. And more specifically so-called neuropathic pain, that is to say, related to damage to the nervous system.
For example, after an injury or surgery, nerves have been cut and somehow healed badly. Or they are damaged by diseases like diabetes or multiple sclerosis. Impossible to quote you here all that can damage the sensitivity of the nerves and put them in a sort of abnormal state of alert. According to the patients, this will lead to sensations of tingling, burning or electric shocks, temporary or permanent.
But how was this particularly painful pain relieved by medication for depression?
Well, this week’s Australian results help answer that question that’s been researched for 60 years! So I reassure you, we already knew the essentials, explained to me by Dr. Delphine Lhuillery, a specialist in pain.
To put it simply, we have different “messengers” in the brain to coordinate “orders” to the whole body. Some contribute to both mood regulation and pain regulation. So you guessed it, treatments that first sought to reduce dark thoughts killed two birds with one stone.
As a result, these antidepressants have become a veritable therapeutic weapon in the face of pain that is actually very painful. Some people concerned know this well, they may have been surprised when they read the leaflet for their medicine.
But if we are already using it, what is the point of the Australian discoveries?
This week’s Australian publication reveals for the first time a very precise mechanism of chemical action of certain antidepressants at the level of pain regulators. And this makes it possible to envisage the creation of a drug which would reproduce only this action. By avoiding the negative side effects of these treatments such as weight gain for example.
Fortunately, for these pains as for many others, reduced doses over a limited period of time are often sufficient. But it’s not always the case. So we really hope that new solutions will be quickly developed!