AimsIntravenous (IV) misuse of the µ opioid analgesic oxymorphone has caused significant public health harms; however, no controlled data on its IV abuse potential are available. The primary aims of this pilot study were to directly compare IV oxymorphone to IV oxycodone, morphine, and hydromorphone on a subjective measure of drug liking and to assess relative potency.Methods
Participants (n = 6) with opioid use disorder, physical dependence, and current IV use completed this two-site, within-subject, double-blind, placebo-controlled, inpatient pilot study. During each session, one IV dose (mg/70 kg) was administered: oxymorphone (1.8, 3.2, 5.6, 10, 18, 32), hydromorphone (1.8, 3.2, 5.6, 10, 18), oxycodone (18, 32, 56), morphine (18, 32), and placebo. Data were collected before and for 6 h after dosing. Primary outcomes included safety/physiological effects, subjective reports of drug liking, and relative potency estimates.ResultsAll active test drugs produced prototypical, dose-related µ opioid agonist effects (e.g., miosis). Oxymorphone was more potent than the comparator opioids on several measures, including drug liking and respiratory depression (p < 0.05). Across abuse-related subjective outcomes, oxymorphone was 2.3–2.8-fold more potent than hydromorphone and 12.5–14-fold more potent than oxycodone (p < 0.05).Conclusions
Despite the relatively small sample size, this pilot study detected robust oxymorphone effects. Oxymorphone was far more potent than the comparator opioids, particularly on abuse potential outcomes. Overall, these findings may help explain surveillance reports that demonstrate, after adjusting for prescription availability, oxymorphone is injected at the highest frequency, relative to other prescription opioids.