Morphine sulfate inhibits bronchoconstriction in subjects with mild asthma whose responses are inhibited by atropine.

Research paper by W L WL Eschenbacher, R A RA Bethel, H A HA Boushey, D D Sheppard

Indexed on: 01 Sep '84Published on: 01 Sep '84Published in: The American review of respiratory disease


To determine whether morphine sulfate alters the bronchoconstrictive response to inhalation of distilled water, we gave 13 subjects with mild asthma 0.15 mg/kg morphine sulfate or normal saline intravenously, after which they inhaled increasing volumes of nebulized distilled water from an ultrasonic nebulizer. We constructed stimulus-response curves, and by interpolation determined the provocative output of the nebulizer that resulted in a 50% increase in SRaw from baseline (PO50). On a separate day the subjects inhaled 2.0 mg of atropine sulfate 30 min before they inhaled distilled water. We compared the bronchoconstrictive response after morphine and after atropine with the bronchoconstrictive response after saline by determining the ratio of the PO50 values. Atropine was considered effective in inhibiting bronchoconstriction in 7 of the 13 subjects in whom the ratio of PO50 after atropine to the PO50 after saline was greater than 2.0. By similar criteria, morphine was also considered effective in 5 of these 7 subjects. Neither atropine nor morphine was effective in the remaining 6 subjects. By chi-square analysis, we found a positive correlation between the inhibitory effects of morphine and those of atropine (p less than 0.05). In the 5 subjects in whom morphine was effective, naloxone reversed the inhibitory effect of morphine. Atropine caused significant baseline bronchodilation when compared with placebo (normal saline), whereas morphine did not. We conclude that opiate receptor stimulation by morphine causes inhibition of the vagally mediated component of water-induced bronchoconstriction.