Comparative clinical pharmacology of short-acting mu opioids in drug abusers

Mark K. Greenwald, Harry L. June, Maxine L. Stitzer, Alan P. Marco

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24 Scopus citations


The clinical pharmacology of fentany1 and alfentanil was examined in opioid-experienced volunteers with agonist and antagonist sensitivity measures. Two studies used within-subject, placebo-controlled, crossover designs. In study 1, fentanyl (0.125, 0.25 mg/70 kg i.v.) was followed at 0, 20, 60 and 180 rain by naloxone (10 mg/70 kg i.m.). Agonist effects during 180-min and 0-min (control; simultaneous fentanyl-naloxone i.v. infusion) challenge sessions were compared. Fentanyl rapidly constricted pupils, depressed respiration and produced subjective 'high' and opiate symptoms lasting 60 to 120 min, depending on the measure. Naloxone precipitated withdrawal symptoms of comparable intensity at each challenge point. In study 2, fentanyl (0.125, 0.25 mg/70 kg i.v.), alfentanil (1, 2mg/70 kg i.v.) and saline were followed at 1 and 6 hr by naloxone (10 mg/70 kg i.m.). Agonist effects were examined during 6-hr challenge sessions. The two drugs produced a comparable range of effects with similar peak magnitude for 0.125 mg/70 kg fentanyl and 1 mg/70 kg alfentanil and for 0.25 mg/70 kg fentanyl and 2 mg/70 kg alfentanil. Alfentanil's duration of action was brief (<60 min). Withdrawal was precipitated at 6 hr only after 0.25 mg/70 kg fentanyl. These findings support typical mu opioid characteristics (pleasurable subjective effects, physical dependence) for both drugs, differential duration of action (fentanyl > alfentanil) and peak effects consistent with a 1:8 (fentanyl/alfentanil) potency ratio.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1228-1236
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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