Acute opioid dependence: Characterizing the early adaptations underlying drug withdrawal

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Rationale: While opioid withdrawal is typically studied under conditions of chronic (i.e., continuous) drug administration, withdrawal signs can also be demonstrated in both humans and animals after a single opioid exposure. This phenomenon, termed acute dependence, may be useful in understanding the early stages of opioid dependence and addiction. Objective: This review provides an overview of acute dependence by comparing withdrawal from acute and chronic opioid exposure across dimensions ranging from symptomatology to neural substrates. Assessment of repeated withdrawals from acute opioid administration is also presented as a tool for better understanding the adaptive changes induced by multiple drug exposures. Conclusions: Although not identical phenomena, acute and chronic dependence share a number of characteristics. Examining potentiations of withdrawal severity across multiple acute opioid exposures may be especially valuable in characterizing the development of drug dependence. Further study of acute dependence promises to lead to more effective treatments for opioid withdrawal and addiction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-366
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This work was supported by the National Institute of Drug Abuse T32 DA 07097 and the University of Minnesota.


  • Abstinence syndrome
  • Addiction
  • Escalation
  • Morphine
  • Negative affect
  • Repeated withdrawals


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