Cold-pressor pain tolerance in opiate and cocaine abusers: correlates of drug type and use status

J Pain Symptom Manage. 1994 Oct;9(7):462-73. doi: 10.1016/0885-3924(94)90203-8.


The objective of this study was to describe pain tolerance in drug abusers. Research suggests that drug dependence and pain perception share common neuroanatomical and neurophysiological substrates; thus the abuse of psychoactive drugs was hypothesized to relate to pain tolerance. We examined cold-pressor pain tolerance in 122 male, current and former opioid and cocaine abusers, across use status and primary drug of abuse. Descriptive analyses showed that the ratio of pain-sensitive to pain-tolerant persons was considerably higher than that described in the normative cold-pressor pain literature. Two-way analysis of variance revealed a significant main effect for using status, indicating that current drug use is associated with decreased pain tolerance. The main effect for drug type approached significance, implying that persons who abuse opioids manifest less pain tolerance than cocaine users. The findings emphasize the importance of studying pain tolerance and drug abuse as interrelated phenomena.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Cocaine*
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narcotics*
  • Pain Threshold*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*


  • Narcotics
  • Cocaine