• Journal Article

Assessment of opioid partial agonist activity with a three-choice hydromorphone dose-discrimination procedure


Jones, H., Bigelow, G. E., & Preston, K. L. (1999). Assessment of opioid partial agonist activity with a three-choice hydromorphone dose-discrimination procedure. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 289(3), 1350-1361.


The discriminative stimulus and subjective effects of opioid mixed agonist-antagonists were assessed in volunteer nondependent heroin users trained in a three-choice drug discrimination procedure to discriminate among the effects of i.m. administration of 2 ml of saline, 1 mg of hydromorphone, and 4 mg of hydromorphone (a morphine-like mu agonist). Other subjective, behavioral, and physiological measures were concurrently collected. The discrimination was readily learned by six of the eight subjects. After training, generalization curves were determined for the following i.m. drug conditions: hydromorphone (0.375-4.0 mg), pentazocine (7.5-60 mg), butorphanol (0.75-6 mg), nalbuphine (3-24 mg), and buprenorphine (0.075-0.6 mg), All five of the test drugs were discriminated significantly or showed trends toward being discriminated as hydromorphone 1 mg-like at one or more dose levels. Hydromorphone showed an inverted U-shaped dose-effect function on the hydromorphone 1 mg-like discrimination. Subjective effect measures produced clearer differentiation among the test drugs than did drug discrimination performance. The present results differ from those of a previous study that observed a close relationship between the results of the discrimination measure and subjective effect measures. The previous study used similar methods and test drugs but different training drugs (e.g., 3 mg of hydromorphone versus 6 mg of butorphanol versus saline), It appears that both the sensitivity of drug discrimination performance to between-drug differences and the relationship between discriminative and subjective effects depends upon the specific discrimination that is trained (e.g., two-choice or three-choice), The present high dose-low dose-saline discrimination procedure appears useful for assessing partial agonist activity. The present data are consistent with partial agonist activity for pentazocine, butorphanol, nalbuphine, and buprenorphine