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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2010 Jun 1;109(1-3):130-8. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2009.12.018. Epub 2010 Jan 15.

Abuse liability of oxycodone as a function of pain and drug use history.

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Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, 1051 Riverside Drive, Unit 120, New York, NY 10032, USA.


The relationship between pain and prescription opioid abuse is poorly understood. Determining whether a patient is seeking additional opioid medications in order to alleviate pain or to abuse the drugs can be difficult. The present study was designed to evaluate two variables that may influence the abuse liability of opioids: drug use history and the presence or absence of experimentally induced pain. Eighteen healthy participants completed this outpatient study. One group was abusing prescription opioids (N=9) and one group had used prescription opioids medically but did not abuse them (N=9). All participants completed twelve sessions during which the effects of orally delivered oxycodone (0, 15, 30mg/70kg, PO) were examined. One dose was tested per day under double-blind conditions and sessions were separated by at least 48h. During the first "sample" session each week, participants were given $10 and the dose that was available later that week. During the second "choice" session, participants could self-administer either money or the previously sampled dose. Six sessions involved repeated hand immersions in cold water (4 degrees C) and six sessions involved immersions in warm water (37 degrees C). Most of the positive subjective effects of oxycodone were similar between the groups, but oxycodone self-administration significantly differed between groups. Non-abusers self-administered active doses of oxycodone only when they were in pain while abusers self-administered oxycodone regardless of the pain condition. These data suggest that an assessment of the reinforcing effects of opioids may be a sensitive method for differentiating opioid abusers from non-abusers.

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