, Volume 108, Issue 1–2, pp 218–224 | Cite as

Conditioned tolerance in human opiate addicts

  • Ronald Ehrman
  • Joseph Ternes
  • Charles P. O'Brien
  • A. T. McLellan
Original Investigations


Repeated administration of opioid drugs results in tolerance, a lessening of the drug's effect. There is pre-clinical evidence suggesting a conditioning component to drug tolerance. In the present study, six former opiate dependent subjects received i.v. opiate either by un-signalled infusion or by signalled self-injection and the effects were compared with those of saline under double-blind conditions. The subjects' pre-injection rituals constitute a signal which reliably predict the appearance of the opiate. These rituals produced drug-opposite physiological responses which resulted in an attenuation of the effects of the drug. Thus, tolerance was observed when the subjects injected the opiate, but not when the same dose was received by un-signaled intravenous infusion. These results are consistent with a conditioning explanation for the observed drug tolerance.

Key words

Tolerance Conditioning Opiate Opioid Dependence Withdrawal Relapse Addiction 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald Ehrman
    • 1
  • Joseph Ternes
    • 1
  • Charles P. O'Brien
    • 1
  • A. T. McLellan
    • 1
  1. 1.Philadelphia Veterans Medical CenterPhiladelphiaUSA

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