Intravenous drug self-administration remains the 'gold standard' for assessing abuse liability. Failure of a drug to maintain self-administration might indicate the absence of positive reinforcing effects but might also indicate the presence of aversive effects. Sensitivity to aversive and punishing effects of drugs (as well as nondrug stimuli) might collectively determine the likelihood of use, abuse and relapse. Using a choice procedure, this study compared the effects of remifentanil (mu opioid receptor agonist; 0.001-0.01 mg/kg/infusion) and histamine (H1-4 receptor agonist; 0.32-3.2 mg/kg/infusion), alone and in mixtures, to test the hypothesis that remifentanil/histamine mixtures are less reinforcing compared with remifentanil alone and less punishing compared with histamine alone. Male Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 10) chose between an intravenous infusion + a pellet and a pellet alone. Rats were indifferent to saline, chose remifentanil + a pellet over a pellet alone, and chose a pellet alone over histamine + a pellet. The effects of remifentanil/histamine mixtures generally were different from the constituent doses of histamine alone but not from remifentanil alone. A mixture containing 3.2 mg/kg/infusion histamine and either 0.001 or 0.0032 mg/kg/infusion remifentanil was not different from saline but was different from the effects of the constituent dose, insofar as choice increased compared with 3.2 mg/kg/infusion histamine alone and decreased compared with 0.001 or 0.0032 mg/kg/infusion remifentanil alone. Reinforcing doses of remifentanil combined with punishing doses of histamine can yield mixtures that are neither preferred nor avoided, offering 'proof-of-principle' for using drug mixtures to avoid adverse effects of opioid receptor agonists.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health