The discriminative stimulus effects of several μ-opioid agonists were examined under conditions of opioid sensitization or tolerance, i.e., before and after 1-week SC infusions of naloxone or μ-opioid agonists. Rats were trained to discriminate 3.0 mg/kg morphine from saline using a two-lever, discrete trial, shock-avoidance/escape procedure. The rats generalized completely to morphine, fentanyl, meperidine, buprenorphine, and etorphine, and partially to pentazocine. A 7-day infusion of naloxone (0.3 mg/kg per h) potentiated the discriminative stimulus effects of all of these drugs. The magnitude of the increased potency varied indirectly with the efficacy of the μ-opioid agonists; potency ratios (pre-infusion ED 50 /post-infusion ED 50 ) ranged from 1.58 (etorphine) to 3.58 (pentazocine). Stimulus generalization to morphine, fentanyl, and meperidine also was examined following infusions of equieffective doses of each of these three drugs. Differences among drugs were generally small, and failed to reach statistical significance. Nonetheless, the induction of μ-opioid tolerance did seem to vary with the efficacy of the three μ-opioid agonists. Thus, meperidine (6.25 mg/kg per h), which has the lowest efficacy of the drugs infused, produced the greatest shift to the right of the stimulus-generalization curves of these three drugs; the post-meperidine PR ranged between 0.40 and 0.61. Fentanyl (0.1 mg/kg per h), a drug with a higher efficacy at μ-opioid receptors, did not produce tolerance to the discriminative stimulus effects of morphine, fentanyl, or meperidine; potency ratios ranged from 0.50 to 0.75. Potency ratios for buprenorphine, etorphine, fentanyl, meperidine, and morphine after 7-day morphine infusions (0.75 mg/kg per h) ranged from 0.38 (buprenorphine) to 0.80 (etorphine). Morphine induced significant tolerance only to the discriminative stimulus effects of fentanyl. Our results suggest that different cellular mechanisms underlie the development of tolerance and sensitization to the discriminative stimulus effects of μ-opioid agonists
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