Dezocine Alleviates Morphine-Induced Dependence in Rats

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Opioid dependence is a major public health issue without optimal therapeutics. This study investigates the potential therapeutic effect of dezocine, a nonaddictive opioid, in opioid dependence in rat models.


Dezocine was administered intraperitoneally to a morphine-dependent rat model to investigate its effect on withdrawal and conditioned place preference (CPP). Effect of dezocine on morphine withdrawal syndrome and CPP was analyzed using 2-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) followed by Tukey’s post hoc test. Buprenorphine and vehicle solution containing 20% (v/v) dimethyl sulfoxide were used for positive and negative control, respectively. The astrocytes activation in nucleus accumbens was assessed by immunofluorescence assay of glial fibrillary acidic protein. Effect of dezocine and buprenorphine on the internalization of κ opioid receptor (KOR) was investigated using Neuro2A expressing KOR fused to red fluorescent protein tdTomato (KOR-tdT). Buprenorphine and dezocine were screened against 44 G-protein–coupled receptors, ion channels, and transporter proteins using radioligand-binding assay to compare the molecular targets.


The mean withdrawal score was reduced in rats treated with 1.25 mg·kg−1 dezocine compared to vehicle-treated control animals starting from the day 1 (mean difference: 7.8; 95% confidence interval [CI], 6.35–9.25; P < .0001 by 2-way ANOVA). Significance was observed at all treatment days, including day 7 (mean difference: 2.13; 95% CI, 0.68–3.58; P < .001 by 2-way ANOVA). Furthermore, dezocine inhibited the reinstatement of morphine-induced CPP (mean difference: 314; 95% CI, 197.9–430.1; P < .0001 by 2-way ANOVA) compared to the control group. Chronic morphine administration induced astrocytes activation in nucleus accumbens, which was attenuated by dezocine. Dezocine blocked the agonist-induced KOR internalization in vitro, 1 of the mechanisms involved in the downstream signaling and development of opioid dependence. Dezocine had affinity to norepinephrine and serotonin transporters and sigma-1 receptor, whereas buprenorphine showed no activity against these targets.


Dezocine could potentially be used to alleviate opioid dependence. Due to the unique molecular target profile different from buprenorphine, it might have important value in studying the mechanisms of morphine dependence and developing novel therapeutic approaches.

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