Can personality traits and gender predict the response to morphine? An experimental cold pain study

Dorit Pud, David Yarnitsky, Elliot Sprecher, Zeev Rogowski, Rivka Adler, Elon Eisenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of the present study was to examine the possible role of personality traits, in accordance with Cloninger's theory, and gender, in the variability of responsiveness to opioids. Specifically, it was intended to test whether or not the three personality dimensions - harm avoidance (HA), reward dependence (RD) and novelty seeking (NS) - as suggested by Cloninger, can predict inter-personal differences in responsiveness to morphine after exposure to experimental cold pain. Thirty-four healthy volunteers (15 females, 19 males) were given the cold pressor test (CPT). Pain threshold, tolerance, and magnitude (VAS) were measured before and after (six measures, 30 min apart) the administration of either 0.5 mg/kg oral morphine sulphate (n = 21) or 0.33 mg/kg oral active placebo (diphenhydramine) (n = 13) in a randomized, double blind design. Assessment of the three personality traits, according to Cloninger's Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire, was performed before the CPT. A high HA score (but not RD, NS, or baseline values of the three pain parameters) predicted a significantly larger pain relief following the administration of morphine sulphate (but not of the placebo). Women exhibited a larger response in response to both treatments, as indicated by a significantly increased threshold and tolerance following morphine sulphate as well as significantly increased tolerance and decreased magnitude following placebo administration. The present study confirms the existence of individual differences in response to analgesic treatment. It suggests that high HA personality trait is associated with better responsiveness to morphine treatment, and that females respond better than men to both morphine and placebo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103
Number of pages1
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Israel Cancer Association, grant number 20000009-c.


  • Cold pressor test
  • Gender
  • Opioid
  • Personality traits
  • Placebo
  • Tridimensional personality theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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