Opiate agonists and antagonists modulate taste perception in opiate-maintained, and recently detoxified subjects.

Amy Green, Arun Kaul, Jacinta O'Shea, Ekta Sharma, Lisa Bennett, Emma L Mullings, Marcus R Munafò, David J Nutt, Jan K Melichar, Lucy F Donaldson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
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Heroin addicts consume large quantities of refined sugars. This study investigated the effect of opiate use and antagonism on sweet taste in opiate-maintained drug users and detoxified former chronic opiate users, using a within-subject design. Seven opiate users received methadone and seven buprenorphine maintenance. Six detoxified subjects received naltrexone. Sucrose recognition thresholds and measurements of pleasantness and intensity were determined before and four hours after 1) a single dose of methadone or buprenorphine or 2) naltrexone. Control data were taken from a cohort of healthy volunteers including smokers. All measures of sweet and salt taste perception were significantly greater in opiate users and recently detoxified subjects compared to control subjects, with the exception of sweet pleasantness, which returned to control level after detoxification. Acute methadone administration reduced salt thresholds and unpleasantness to control levels. Increased sweet thresholds and salt unpleasantness in detoxified subjects were reversed by acute opioid antagonism, returning to control levels. These results suggest that opiate use and antagonism alters taste perception. Some of the alterations reverse on detoxification (sweet pleasantness), and others can be reversed by opioid antagonism (sweet threshold, salt unpleasantness). Changes in taste perception may underlie altered consumption of refined sugars in opiate users.
Original languageEnglish
Article number27(3)
Pages (from-to)265-75
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number3
Early online date29 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013

Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Tobacco and Alcohol


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