Methods: Based on the morphine withdrawal model, rats were morphine treated with increasing doses from 10 to 50 mg/kg twice daily over a period of 6 days. The treatment was discontinued on day 7 in order to induce a spontaneous morphine abstinence. The withdrawal signs were measured daily after 24 h of the last morphine administration over a period of 28 abstinence days. In rats that developed withdrawal signs, a drug replacement treatment was given using mitragynine, methadone, or buprenorphine and the global withdrawal score was evaluated.
Results: The morphine withdrawal model induced profound withdrawal signs for 16 days. Mitragynine (5-30 mg/kg; i.p.) was able to attenuate acute withdrawal signs in morphine dependent rats. On the other hand, smaller doses of methadone (0.5-2 mg/kg; i.p.) and buprenorphine (0.4-1.6 mg/kg; i.p.) were necessary to mitigate these effects.
Conclusions: These data suggest that mitragynine may be a potential drug candidate for opiate withdrawal treatment.