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Sci Transl Med. 2012 Aug 8;4(146):146ra110. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003948.

A combination of buprenorphine and naltrexone blocks compulsive cocaine intake in rodents without producing dependence.

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  • 1Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Buprenorphine, a synthetic opioid that acts at both μ and κ opioid receptors, can decrease cocaine use in individuals with opioid addiction. However, the potent agonist action of buprenorphine at μ opioid receptors raises its potential for creating opioid dependence in non-opioid-dependent cocaine abusers. Here, we tested the hypothesis that a combination of buprenorphine and naltrexone (a potent μ opioid antagonist with weaker δ and κ antagonist properties) could block compulsive cocaine self-administration without producing opioid dependence. The effects of buprenorphine and various doses of naltrexone on cocaine self-administration were assessed in rats that self-administered cocaine under conditions of either short access (noncompulsive cocaine seeking) or extended access (compulsive cocaine seeking). Buprenorphine alone reproducibly decreased cocaine self-administration. Although this buprenorphine-alone effect was blocked in a dose-dependent manner by naltrexone in both the short-access and the extended-access groups, the combination of the lowest dose of naltrexone with buprenorphine blocked cocaine self-administration in the extended-access group but not in the short-access group. Rats given this low dose of naltrexone with buprenorphine did not exhibit the physical opioid withdrawal syndrome seen in rats treated with buprenorphine alone, and naltrexone at this dose did not block κ agonist-induced analgesia. The results suggest that the combination of buprenorphine and naltrexone at an appropriate dosage decreases compulsive cocaine self-administration with minimal liability to produce opioid dependence and may be useful as a treatment for cocaine addiction.

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