Enhancement of cocaine's abuse liability in methadone maintenance patients

K. L. Preston, J. T. Sullivan, E. C. Strain, G. E. Bigelow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The present study was conducted to determine whether methadone maintenance alters the pharmacodynamic effects of single doses of cocaine. Twenty-two current users of IV cocaine who were not seeking treatment for their illicit cocaine use participated while living on a research unit. Eleven were maintained on methadone 50 mg PO daily as treatment for their opioid abuse; 11 were opioid abusers who were not physically dependent on opioids and who provided opioid-free urines throughout the study. Each subject received acute cocaine challenge doses of 0, 12.5, 25, and 50 mg intravenously in random order under double-blind conditions in separate test sessions. Physiologic and subject-rated responses were measured before injection and for 2 h after. In the methadone maintenance group, cocaine challenge sessions occurred 15.5 h after the daily methadone dose. There were significant differences between the methadone-dependent and nondependent groups: 1) baseline differences related to chronic methadone administration and not associated with cocaine administration (lower respiration rates and pupil diameter; higher skin temperature) and 2) differences in response to cocaine administration; cocaine-induced increases in subject ratings of Drug Effect, Rush, Good Effects, Liking, and Desire for Cocaine and in heart rate were greater in the methadone maintenance patients compared to the non-dependent group. These results indicate that the positive subjective effects and some physiological effects of cocaine are enhanced in methadone-maintained individuals, suggesting a pharmacological basis for the high rates of cocaine abuse among methadone maintenance patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-25
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996


  • Abuse liability
  • Cocaine
  • Cocaine abuse
  • Drug abuse
  • Drug interactions
  • Humans
  • Methadone
  • Opiates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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