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Opioid analgesics

Oxycodone may be riskier than other addictive opioids, research suggests

Oxycodone (light micrograph of oxycodone crystals pictured) may be riskier than other opioids, study finds

Source: J. L. Carson, Custom Medical Stock Photo / Science Photo Library

Oxycodone (pictured as crystals) led to a stable rise in dopamine levels, research has found

Although all prescription opioids can be abused, oxycodone may be more potent in its ability to promote changes in the brain relevant to addiction.

Opioids such as morphine and oxycodone are prescribed for pain management but are also drugs of abuse. While the mechanisms underlying drug addiction are not fully understood, research published in the European Journal of Neuroscience[1] (online, 11 September 2014) reveals “dramatic differences” between oxycodone and morphine in their impact on dopamine transmission in the brain.

Rats given morphine showed a brief, transient increase in dopamine and GABA levels, which rapidly returned to baseline. By contrast, oxycodone led to a “robust and stable” rise in dopamine and markedly increased dopamine release events.

“Investigating these differences may be essential for understanding how these two drugs of abuse could differentially usurp motivational circuitry and powerfully influence behaviour,” say Brandon Aragona, from the University of Michigan, and co-authors.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20066766

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