Narcotic analgesics, their detection and pain measurement in the horse: a review

Equine Vet J. 1989 Jan;21(1):4-12. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-3306.1989.tb02081.x.


Narcotic analgesics produce pharmacological effects by interacting with specific opiate receptors. At least five major types of opiate receptors have been recognised. These include mu (morphine) and kappa (ethylketazocine) receptor types. Narcotic analgesics which interact with mu receptors produce locomotor and autonomic stimulation at doses that produce little or no analgesia. Therefore, use of these drugs as analgesics in equine medicine has not been very satisfactory. Theoretical considerations suggested that the role of kappa agonists in equine analgesia be investigated. Using a pure kappa agonist, U-50, 488H, good analgesia was produced in the horse with little or no locomotor stimulation or autonomic effects. These data suggest that kappa agonists may be superior analgesics for clinical use in the horse. On the other hand, the locomotor stimulant effects of mu agonist analgesics enable their use as illegal medications. Specifically, these agents produce a good running response, signs of central nervous stimulation and analgesia, all potentially useful effects in a racehorse. Regulatory control of most narcotic analgesics can be obtained by high performance thin layer chromatographic screening. However, effective screening for the fentanyls and small doses of etorphine can only be achieved by use of immunoassay.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 3,4-Dichloro-N-methyl-N-(2-(1-pyrrolidinyl)-cyclohexyl)-benzeneacetamide, (trans)-Isomer
  • Analgesics, Opioid / analysis
  • Analgesics, Opioid / metabolism
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacokinetics
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Butorphanol / pharmacology
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer
  • Cyclazocine / analogs & derivatives
  • Cyclazocine / pharmacology
  • Ethylketocyclazocine
  • Etorphine / analysis
  • Etorphine / pharmacology
  • Fentanyl / analysis
  • Fentanyl / pharmacology
  • Horses / metabolism
  • Horses / physiology*
  • Morphine / pharmacokinetics
  • Morphine / pharmacology
  • Pain Measurement / veterinary*
  • Pentazocine / pharmacokinetics
  • Pentazocine / pharmacology
  • Pyrrolidines / pharmacology
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Receptors, Opioid / metabolism


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Pyrrolidines
  • Receptors, Opioid
  • Etorphine
  • Ethylketocyclazocine
  • 3,4-Dichloro-N-methyl-N-(2-(1-pyrrolidinyl)-cyclohexyl)-benzeneacetamide, (trans)-Isomer
  • Morphine
  • Cyclazocine
  • Butorphanol
  • Pentazocine
  • Fentanyl