The reinforcing and subjective effects of intravenous and intranasal buprenorphine in heroin users

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Abuse of buprenorphine (BUP) by the intravenous (IV) route has been documented in several studies, and reports of intranasal (IN) abuse are increasing. However, no studies have directly compared the effects of BUP when it is administered intranasally and intravenously. The present secondary analysis used data from two separate studies to compare the reinforcing and subjective effects of IV and IN buprenorphine. One study evaluated IV buprenorphine (N = 13) and the other evaluated IN buprenorphine (N = 12). Participants were maintained on 2 mg sublingual (SL) BUP and tested with each intranasal or intravenous buprenorphine test dose (0 mg, 2 mg, 4 mg, 8 mg, and 16 mg). During morning laboratory sessions, participants received money (US $20) and sample doses of IN or IV BUP, and then completed subjective effects questionnaires. Later that day, they completed a self-administration task to receive 10% portions of the drug and/or money they previously sampled. In general, positive subjective ratings for both IV and IN BUP were significantly greater than placebo, with IV BUP having a greater effect than IN BUP. All active BUP doses (IV and IN) maintained significantly higher progressive ratio breakpoint values than placebo, but breakpoint values for IV BUP were greater than for IN BUP. Buprenorphine is an effective maintenance treatment for opioid dependence, valued for its ability to reduce the positive subjective effects of other opioids. Nevertheless, the present data demonstrate that in participants maintained on a low dose of SL BUP, the medication itself has abuse liability when used intravenously or intranasally.

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