Behavioral pharmacology of drugs acting at mu opioid receptors

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Scopus citations


Despite the therapeutic utility of opioids for relieving pain, other behavioral effects, including their potential for abuse and overdose, can be quite detrimental to individuals as well as society and have contributed to the ongoing opioid crisis. The dramatic escalation in overdose deaths over the last 15 years was initially driven by abuse of prescription opioids, although abuse of heroin, fentanyl, and fentanyl analogs has been increasing, largely due to increased availability and lower cost compared with prescription opioids. All of these opioids share pharmacological properties, acting as agonists at mu opioid receptors, and produce similar behavioral effects, including abuse-related, pain-relieving, dependence-producing, and respiratory-depressant effects. Despite their similarities, opioids are not pharmacologically identical. In fact, drugs that act at mu opioid receptors, including abused opioids, can vary on a number of dimensions, including pharmacological efficacy, drug-receptor interactions, receptor selectivity, and pharmacokinetics. Overall, these differences impact behavioral effects of drugs acting at mu opioid receptors, and this chapter describes variations in those behavioral effects and how these differences continue to provide new strategies that can be developed to address the ongoing opioid epidemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Experimental Pharmacology
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NameHandbook of Experimental Pharmacology
ISSN (Print)0171-2004
ISSN (Electronic)1865-0325


  • Behavioral pharmacology
  • Drug-receptor interactions
  • Efficacy
  • Mu opioid receptors
  • Opioid abuse
  • Treatments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics
  • Biochemistry


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