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

For people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) who have not been helped by standard drug treatments, a weekly dose of oral morphine may ease their symptoms, according to a small pilot study.

The newer class of antidepressants known as SRIs is approved for treating OCD, but up to 40 percent of patients fail to respond to two or more of these drugs, Dr. Lorrin M. Koran and his associates explain in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Quite why morphine can be effective is not known, but other small studies have suggested a role for drugs that interact with opioid receptors because there is a high concentration of opioid receptors in an area of the brain thought to be involved in OCD.


Among those responding to morphine, the most noticeable effect began the day after taking the drug and lasted for two to five days. These individuals reported decreased frequency and persistence of obsessions and anxiety, as well as an increased ability to resist their compulsions.


"The response seen, its rapidity, and the relative tolerability of the treatment are encouraging and warrant larger and longer term studies" of morphine or other opiate drugs for treatment-resistant OCD, the team concludes.


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

By Lorrin M. Koran, Elias Aboujaoude, Kim D. Bullock, Bettina Franz, Nona Gamel, and Michael Elliott.

Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, March 2005, no: 66:353-359.

From: National Institute of Mental Health