Different mechanisms were proposed for opioid-induced analgesia and antihyperalgesia, which might result in different pharmacodynamics. To address this issue, the time course of analgesic and antihyperalgesic effects of intravenous (i.v.) and sublingual (s.l.) buprenorphine was assessed in an experimental human pain model. Fifteen volunteers were enrolled in this randomized, double-blind, and placebo controlled cross-over study. The magnitude of pain and the area of secondary hyperalgesia following transcutaneous stimulation were repetitively assessed before and up to 150 min after administration of (1) 0.15 mg buprenorphine i.v. and placebo pill s.l., (2) 0.2 mg buprenorphine s.l. and saline 0.9% i.v. or (3) saline 0.9% i.v. and placebo pill s.l. as a control. The sessions were separated by 2 week wash-out periods. For both applications of buprenorphine the antihyperalgesic effects were more pronounced as compared to the analgesic effects (66+/-9 vs. 26+/-5% and 43+/-10 vs. 10+/-6%, for i.v. and s.l. application, respectively). This contrasts the pattern for the intravenous administration of pure mu-receptor agonists in the same model in which the antihyperalgesic effects are weaker. The apparent bioavailability of buprenorphine s.l. as compared to buprenorphine i.v. was 58% with a 15.8 min later onset of antinociceptive effects. The half-life of buprenorphine-induced analgesic and antihyperalgesic effects were 171 and 288 min, respectively. In contrast to pure mu-receptor agonists, buprenorphine exerts a lasting antihyperalgesic effect in our model. It will be of major clinical interest whether this difference will translate into improved treatment of pain states dominated by central sensitization.