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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2007 Feb;190(2):221-31. Epub 2006 Nov 11.

Role of atypical opiates in OCD. Experimental approach through the study of 5-HT(2A/C) receptor-mediated behavior.

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  • 1Group of Research and Development in Neuropsychopharmacology, Department of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, University of Cádiz, Plz Falla 9, 11003, Cádiz, Spain.



The selective serotonin (5-HT) reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) represent the first-line pharmacotherapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and atypical antipsychotic drugs, which block 5-HT2A receptors, are used in augmentation strategies. Opiate drugs are also effective in treatment-refractory OCD and Tourette syndrome. The 5-HT2A-related behavior (i.e., head twitch) has been related with tics, stereotypes, and compulsive symptoms observed in Tourette syndrome and OCD.


The aim of this study was to explore whether 5-HT2A-related behavior is affected by atypical opiate drugs.


Head-twitch response was induced in mice by administration of either 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) or the 5-HT2A/C agonist (+/-)-1-(2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodophenyl)-2-aminopropane (DOI). Dose-effect curves of atypical opiate drugs [(+/-)-tramadol, (-)-methadone and levorphanol], morphine, and other psychoactive drugs (fluvoxamine, desipramine, nefazodone, and clozapine) were performed. Opioid mechanisms were investigated by administration of naloxone.


All the opiates tested reduced both 5-HTP and DOI-induced behavior in a naloxone-reversible fashion, atypical opiates being more effective. The effects of the other drugs depended on the protocol, clozapine being the most effective.


Combined 5-HT and opioid properties result in a greater efficacy in antagonizing 5-HT2A-related behavior. These results provide behavioral evidence to support convergent effects of the 5-HT and opioid systems in discrete brain areas, offering the potential for therapeutic advances in the management of refractory stereotypes and compulsive behaviors.

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