Evidence from rats that morphine tolerance is a learned response

J Comp Physiol Psychol. 1975 Jul;89(5):498-506. doi: 10.1037/h0077058.


It is proposed that the direct analgesic effect of morphine becomes attenuated over the course of successive administrations of the narcotic by a conditioned, compensatory, hyperalgesic response elicited by the administration procedure, the net result being analgesic tolerance. Using the "hot plate" analgesia assessment situation with rats, this conditioning view of tolerance is supported by several findings: (a) It is necessary to have reliable environmental cues predicting the systemic effects of morphine if tolerance is to be observed, (b) a hyperalgesic conditioned response may be observed in morphine-tolerant subjects when drug administration cues are followed by a placebo, and (c) merely by repeatedly presenting environmental cues previously associated with morphine (but now presented with a placebo), morphine tolerance can be extinguished.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Association
  • Conditioning, Classical*
  • Cues
  • Drug Tolerance*
  • Extinction, Psychological
  • Male
  • Morphine / pharmacology*
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Placebos
  • Rats
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Sodium Chloride / pharmacology
  • Time Factors


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Placebos
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Morphine