The effects of buprenorphine in buprenorphine-maintained volunteers
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Buprenorphine is a mu opioid partial agonist currently used as an analgesic, and being developed for the treatment of opioid dependence. The purpose of this study was to determine the abuse liability of parenteral buprenorphine in volunteers maintained on daily sublingual (SL) buprenorphine (8 mg). In a residential laboratory, eight volunteers underwent pharmacologic challenges two times per week. Medication challenges were 16 h after the daily dose of buprenorphine, and consisted of double-blind IM injections of buprenorphine (4, 8, 16 mg), the prototypic mu opioid agonist hydromorphone (9 and 18 mg), or saline. Assessments consisted of physiologic monitoring, subjects’ self-reports, and a trained observer’s ratings of drug effects, and were collected for 0.5 h before and 2.0 h following injection. Supplemental doses of IM buprenorphine produced opioid agonist-like effects, indicating some abuse potential of parenteral buprenorphine in buprenorphine-maintained patients. There was incomplete cross-tolerance to the effects of hydromorphone, suggesting that higher maintenance doses of buprenorphine may be needed to maximize clinical efficacy. However, there was a lack of graded dose-effects for hydromorphone, suggesting that buprenorphine’s combination of partial agonist effects and high affinity for opioid receptors may limit the magnitude of effects of supplemental full agonists. Finally, participants tolerated cumulative doses of maintenance buprenorphine plus challenge buprenorphine without adverse effects, suggesting higher doses of buprenorphine can be safely administered to opioid dependent patients.
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