Skip to content

Oxycodone-induced tolerance to respiratory depression: reversal by ethanol, pregabalin and protein kinase C inhibition

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2492-2503
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number12
Early online date25 Mar 2018
DateAccepted/In press - 13 Mar 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 25 Mar 2018
DatePublished (current) - Jun 2018


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Oxycodone, a prescription opioid, is a major drug of abuse, especially in the USA, and contributes significantly to opioid overdose deaths each year. Overdose deaths result primarily from respiratory depression. We have studied respiratory depression by oxycodone and have characterized how tolerance develops on prolonged exposure to the drug. We have investigated the role of protein kinase C (PKC) in maintaining tolerance and have examined whether ethanol or pregabalin reverse oxycodone-induced tolerance EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: Respiration was measured in male CD-1 mice by whole body plethysmography. Mice were preinjected with oxycodone, then implanted with mini-pumps (s.c.) delivering 20, 45 or 120 .d-1 oxycodone for 6 d and subsequently challenged with oxycodone (3 i.p.) or morphine (10 i.p.) to assess the level of tolerance.

KEY RESULTS: Oxycodone-treated mice developed tolerance to oxycodone and cross tolerance to morphine-induced respiratory depression. Tolerance was less with 20 .d-1 than with 45 or 120 .d-1 oxycodone treatment. At doses that do not depress respiration, ethanol (0.3 ), pregabalin (20 ) and calphostin C (45 μ ) all reversed oxycodone-induced tolerance resulting in significant respiratory depression. Reversal of tolerance was less in mice treated with oxycodone (120 .d-1 ). In mice receiving ethanol and calphostin C or ethanol and pregabalin there was no greater reversal of tolerance than seen with either drug alone.

CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS: These data suggest that oxycodone-induced tolerance is mediated by PKC and that reversal of tolerance by ethanol or pregabalin may be a contributory factor in oxycodone overdose deaths.

Additional information

Special Issue: Themed Section: Recent Advances in Targeting Ion Channels to Treat Chronic Pain

    Research areas

  • Opioid, oxycodone, respiratory depression, tolerance, protein kinase C

Download statistics

No data available



  • Full-text PDF (accepted author manuscript)

    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Wiley at . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 732 KB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY-NC


View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups