Comparison of a drug versus money and drug versus drug self-administration choice procedure with oxycodone and morphine in opioid addicts

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This double-blind, placebo-controlled study investigated the effects of oral morphine (0, 45, 135 mg/70 kg) and oral oxycodone (0, 15, 45 mg/70 kg) on buprenorphine-maintained opioid addicts. As a 3 : 1 morphine : oxycodone oral dose ratio yielded equivalent subjective and physiological effects in nondependent individuals, this ratio was used in the present study. Two self-administration laboratory procedures – that is, a drug versus money and a drug versus drug procedure – were assessed. Study participants (N=12) lived in the hospital and were maintained on 4 mg/day sublingual buprenorphine. When participants chose between drug and money, money was preferred over all drug doses; only high-dose oxycodone was self-administered more than placebo. When participants chose between drug and drug, both drugs were chosen more than placebo, high doses of each drug were chosen over low doses, and high-dose oxycodone was preferred over high-dose morphine. The subjective, performance-impairing, and miotic effects of high-dose oxycodone were generally greater than those of high-dose morphine. The study demonstrated that a 3 : 1 oral dose ratio of morphine : oxycodone was not equipotent in buprenorphine-dependent individuals. Both self-administration procedures were effective for assessing the relative reinforcing effects of drugs; preference for one procedure should be driven by the specific research question of interest.

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