The pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic profile of intranasal crushed buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naloxone tablets in opioid abusers

Lisa S. Middleton, Paul A. Nuzzo, Michelle R. Lofwall, David E. Moody, Sharon L. Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Aims Sublingual buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naloxone are efficacious opioid dependence pharmacotherapies, but there are reports of their diversion and misuse by the intranasal route. The study objectives were to characterize and compare their intranasal pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic profiles. Design A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. Setting An in-patient research unit at the University of Kentucky. Participants Healthy adults (n=10) abusing, but not physically dependent on, intranasal opioids. Measurements Six sessions (72 hours apart) tested five intranasal doses [0/0, crushed buprenorphine (2, 8mg), crushed buprenorphine/naloxone (2/0.5, 8/2mg)] and one intravenous dose (0.8mg buprenorphine/0.2mg naloxone for bioavailability assessment). Plasma samples, physiological, subject- and observer-rated measures were collected before and for up to 72 hours after drug administration. Findings Both formulations produced time- and dose-dependent increases on subjective and physiological mu-opioid agonist effects (e.g. 'liking', miosis). Subjects reported higher subjective ratings and street values for 8mg compared to 8/2mg, but these differences were not statistically significant. No significant formulation differences in peak plasma buprenorphine concentration or time-course were observed. Buprenorphine bioavailability was 38-44% and Tmax was 35-40 minutes after all intranasal doses. Naloxone bioavailability was 24% and 30% following 2/0.5 and 8/2mg, respectively. Conclusions It is difficult to determine if observed differences in abuse potential between intranasal buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naloxone are clinically relevant at the doses tested. Greater bioavailability and faster onset of pharmacodynamic effects compared to sublingual administration suggests a motivation for intranasal misuse in non-dependent opioid abusers. However, significant naloxone absorption from intranasal buprenorphine/naloxone administration may deter the likelihood of intranasal misuse of buprenorphine/naloxone, but not buprenorphine, in opioid-dependent individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1460-1473
Number of pages14
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Abuse liability
  • Buprenorphine
  • Human
  • Intranasal
  • Naloxone
  • Pharmacodynamic
  • Pharmacokinetic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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