The abuse of prescription opioids that are used for the treatment of chronic pain is a major public health concern, costing ∼$53.4 billion annually in lost wages, health-care costs, and criminal costs. Although opioids remain a first-line therapy for the treatment of severe chronic pain, practitioners remain cautious because of the potential for abuse and addiction. Opioids such as heroin are considered very rewarding and reinforcing, but direct and systematic comparisons of compulsive intake between commonly prescribed opioids and heroin in animal models have not yet been performed. In the present study, we evaluated the potential for compulsive-like drug seeking and taking, using intravenous self-administration of oxycodone, fentanyl, and buprenorphine in rats allowed long access sessions (12 h). We measured compulsive-like intake using an established escalation model and responding on a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement. We compared the potential for compulsive-like self-administration of these prescription opioids and heroin, which has been previously established to induce increasing intake that models the transition to addiction in humans. We found that animals that self-administered oxycodone, fentanyl, or heroin, but not buprenorphine had similar profiles of escalation and increases in breakpoints. The use of extended access models of prescription opioid intake will help better understand the biological factors that underlie opioid dependence.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was financially supported by National Institutes of Health grants DA004043 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Pearson Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research. The authors declare no conflict of interest.