Intrathecal Morphine Induces Myoclonic Seizures in the Rat

Esther Shohami*, Shmuel Evron

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The development of myoclonic activity as a toxic effect of morphine application into the intrathecal space in rats is described. This syndrome resembled the human syndrome of action myoclonus by its spontaneous onset and its augmentation by initiation of movement or by an acoustic stimulus. It was not reversed or prevented by naloxone. This effect of morphine was associated with an increase in serotonergic activity in the spinal cord and was reduced by pretreatment with parachlorophenylalanine in doses which reduced spinal 5‐HT by ∼60%. The dose which produced this syndrome was about ten times higher than the analgesic dose applied by the same route. Other commonly used opiates such as: methadone (0.5–2 mg/kg), pethidine (2‐10 mg/kg), fentanyl (2–10 μg/kg) and ketamine (2–10 mg/kg) did not produce myoclonic‐like activity, but methadone and pethidine at the highest doses caused respiratory arrest. Fentanyl appeared to be the safest of the drugs tested since a relatively high dose, administered into the intrathecal space did not cause any side effects, while morphine was least safe of the five drugs since it produced myoclonic activity in addition to the widely documented respiratory depression. We suggest that the production of the myoclonic activity is mediated by spinal serotonergic systems. 1985 Nordic Pharmacological Society

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-54
Number of pages5
JournalActa Pharmacologica et Toxicologica
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1985
Externally publishedYes


  • Morphine
  • intrathecal
  • myoclonus
  • rat


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