Effects of repeated oxycodone administration on its analgesic and subjective effects in normal, healthy volunteers

Behav Pharmacol. 2012 Jun;23(3):271-9. doi: 10.1097/FBP.0b013e3283536d6f.


Tolerance to the analgesic effects of opioids has been demonstrated in laboratory animals after repeated drug administration; yet, this effect has been studied less frequently under controlled laboratory conditions in humans. This within-subject, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was designed to determine whether tolerance developed to the analgesic, subjective, and physiological effects of the commonly prescribed opioid oxycodone when it was administered daily for 5 days. The effects of oxycodone (0, 5, and 20 mg/70 kg, orally) were compared, using a within-session cumulative dosing procedure, on the first and fifth days of the 'daily' dosing phase to assess for tolerance; active oxycodone was administered on the second and fourth days of the daily dosing phase. Changes in the effects of oxycodone were also compared when the medication was only administered on the first and the fifth day of a 5-day 'intermittent' dosing phase; placebo medication was administered on the second and fourth days of the intermittent dosing phase. A 9-day 'washout' period occurred between phases during which no medication was administered. Healthy volunteers (N=10) with no history of drug dependence or current drug use participated in this outpatient study. Analgesia was assessed using the cold pressor test, pain and drug effects were measured using a variety of questionnaires, and pupil diameter was monitored as an index of physiological effects. When administered daily, no differences were observed in oxycodone-induced analgesia between the first and the fifth days, but tolerance did develop to some of the positive subjective effects of oxycodone. In contrast, oxycodone-induced analgesia and participant ratings of some positive subjective drug effects were greater on the fifth compared with the first day of the intermittent dosing phase. No differences in the miotic effects of oxycodone between the first and the fifth days of either dosing phase were detected. Although obtained under limited experimental conditions, these findings suggest that tolerance may not develop to the analgesic effects of therapeutic doses of oxycodone under short-term daily dosing conditions, even though some of its subjective effects may decrease. These data also suggest that intermittent administration may enhance the analgesic effects of oxycodone, while also increasing some of the drug's positive subjective effects related to abuse liability.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Miosis / chemically induced
  • Oxycodone / pharmacology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Oxycodone