Mu opioid mediated discriminative-stimulus effects of tramadol: An individual subjects analysis

Justin C. Strickland, Craig R. Rush, William W. Stoops

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Drug discrimination procedures use dose-dependent generalization, substitution, and pretreatment with selective agonists and antagonists to evaluate receptor systems mediating interoceptive effects of drugs. Despite the extensive use of these techniques in the nonhuman animal literature, few studies have used human participants. Specifically, human studies have not routinely used antagonist administration as a pharmacological tool to elucidate the mechanisms mediating the discriminative stimulus effects of drugs. This study evaluated the discriminative-stimulus effects of tramadol, an atypical analgesic with monoamine and mu opioid activity. Three human participants first learned to discriminate 100mg tramadol from placebo. A range of tramadol doses (25 to 150mg) and hydromorphone (4mg) with and without naltrexone pretreatment (50mg) were then administered to participants after they acquired the discrimination. Tramadol produced dose-dependent increases in drug-appropriate responding and hydromorphone partially or fully substituted for tramadol in all participants. These effects were attenuated by naltrexone. Individual participant records indicated a relationship between mu opioid activity (i.e., miosis) and drug discrimination performance. Our findings indicate that mu opioid activity may mediate the discriminative-stimulus effects of tramadol in humans. The correspondence of generalization, substitution, and pretreatment findings with the animal literature supports the neuropharmacological specificity of the drug discrimination procedure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-374
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior.


  • Drug discrimination
  • Humans
  • Miosis
  • Naltrexone
  • Opioids
  • Point-distribution
  • Tramadol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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