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O'Connor EC, Mead AN. 
“Tramadol acts as a weak reinforcer in the rat self-administration model, consistent with its low abuse liability in humans”. 
Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2010 Sep 20;96(3):279-86.
Rodent models of abuse potential are considered to represent a false positive with respect to the low risk of abuse liability associated with the atypical opioid analgesic tramadol. This may reflect either the predictive limitations of the models used to formulate this proposition (drug discrimination and conditioned place preference) or the predictive ability of the rodent per se. To address this concern, we used the rat self-administration model to examine the reinforcing properties of tramadol (0.3-3mg/kg/infusion) under fixed (FR) and progressive-ratio (PR) schedules of reinforcement. Comparisons were made with the typical opioid analgesics morphine (0.03-0.3mg/kg/infusion) and remifentanil (0.001-0.03mg/kg/infusion). All three compounds maintained responding under an FR3 schedule of reinforcement, although clear differences were observed in the rates of responding between compounds. Under a PR schedule, morphine and remifentanil maintained comparable break points, while break points for tramadol did not differ from vehicle. Thus, when examined in the self-administration model, tramadol acts as a relatively weak reinforcer in rodents. These data are consistent with the low risk of tramadol abuse liability in humans and highlight the value of using multiple abuse potential models for assessing abuse liability.
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