Opioid agonist–antagonist drugs are a class of medications that interact with opioid receptors in the body. They produce limited responses (partial agonists) or no effect (competitive antagonists) at these receptors. These drugs also often have partial agonist actions at other types of opioid receptors, such as kappa (κ) and delta (δ) receptors. This article will explore various opioid agonist-antagonist drugs, their pharmacokinetics, clinical uses, side effects, and more.
Common Opioid Agonist–Antagonist Drugs
Here are some common opioid agonist-antagonist drugs:
|Dose per kg
|Onset of Action
|Duration of Action
|μ, δ, κ receptors
|Moderate pain relief
|μ, κ receptors
|Postoperative pain, migraines
|μ, δ receptors
|Analgesia, cardiac catheterization
|Moderate to severe pain
Here’s an overview of the pharmacokinetic properties of these drugs:
|Well absorbed after oral or parenteral administration
|Extensive hepatic metabolism
|2 to 3 hours
|Urine (5-25% unchanged)
|Rapid and complete absorption after IM injection
|Metabolized in the liver
|2.5 to 3.5 hours
|Bile and urine
|Rapid onset of action and duration similar to morphine
|3 to 6 hours
|Rapid onset and prolonged duration of action
|Extensive liver metabolism
|8 hours or more
|Bile and urine
These drugs have various clinical applications:
- Pentazocine: Used for moderate pain relief, especially when there’s a high risk of physical dependence. Can be administered epidurally for rapid but shorter-lasting analgesia.
- Butorphanol: Effective for postoperative pain and migraine pain. Limited intraoperative use.
- Nalbuphine: Useful for analgesia during cardiac catheterization. Can reverse opioid-induced respiratory depression while maintaining analgesia.
- Buprenorphine: Effective for moderate to severe pain, including postoperative, cancer-related, renal colic, and myocardial infarction pain.
Common side effects and other considerations for these drugs:
|Common Side Effects
|Sedation, diaphoresis, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, dysphoria
|Increases plasma catecholamine levels, crosses placenta
|Sedation, nausea, diaphoresis, minimal dysphoria, increased blood pressure
|Limited intraoperative use, reversal of opioid-induced respiratory depression
|Sedation, dysphoria (increases with dose), no significant effects on blood pressure
|Useful for patients with heart disease during procedures
|Drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, prolonged and naloxone-resistant effects, may precipitate withdrawal in opioid-dependent patients
|Low risk of abuse, resistant to naloxone
Opioid agonist-antagonist drugs offer a unique pharmacological profile, combining partial agonist and antagonist actions. They have a range of clinical uses, with advantages such as limited respiratory depression and lower physical dependence potential. However, their side effects and interactions with other opioids must be carefully considered in clinical practice.
Please note that specific dosages and clinical decisions should be made by healthcare professionals based on individual patient needs and conditions. This article provides an overview of these drugs but should not replace medical guidance.