Depot naltrexone decreases rewarding properties of sugar in patients with opioid dependence
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- Langleben, D.D., Busch, E.L., O’Brien, C.P. et al. Psychopharmacology (2012) 220: 559. doi:10.1007/s00213-011-2503-1
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Opioid neurotransmission mediates hedonic value of sweet tastants; their intake may be exaggerated by the consumption of exogenous opioids (e.g., opioid dependence). Sweet Taste Test (STT) is a validated quantitative instrument assessing taste perception and hedonic features of sugar (sucrose) using a randomized and double-blind administration at five different sucrose concentrations ranging from 0.05 to 0.83 M.
The STT and cue-induced craving procedure were administered to opioid-dependent patients (n = 15) before and 1 week after the injection of a long-acting depot naltrexone (XRNT) preparation.
Analyses of covariance, employing sucrose concentration and its perceived taste as covariates, showed that XRNT therapy significantly reduced the self-reported hedonic and motivational characteristics of sucrose. Greater reductions in both these characteristics were associated with more diminution in the cue-induced opioid craving.
Opioid antagonism in opioid-dependent subjects leads to a smaller sweet taste reward, which, in turn, may be proportional to decreased opioid craving. These pilot results support the heuristic value of the STT as a potential marker of the XRNT treatment response and call for further inquiry into potential clinical applications of the test.