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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Physostigmine antagonizes morphine-induced respiratory depression but not analgesia in dogs and rabbits.

The ability of physostigmine to antagonize the respiratory depressant effect of morphine was studied in conscious rabbits and ketamine-anaesthetized dogs pretreated with atropine methyl nitrate. Morphine 4 mg kg-1 increased PaCO2 in the rabbit from 3.43 +/- 0.16 to 4.95 +/- 0.28 kPa, decreased arterial pH from 7.45 +/- 0.01 to 7.31 +/- 0.01 and decreased respiratory frequency by 36%. Physostigmine 0.1 mg kg-1 reduced PaCO2 to control values within 10 min and significantly increased arterial pH and respiratory frequency. There was no antagonism of the analgesic effect of morphine. Neostigmine 0.1 mg kg-1 did not reverse the respiratory depressant effect of morphine. In dogs anaesthetized with ketamine, morphine 15 mg kg-1 caused loss of consciousness and marked analgesia, decreased the respiratory frequency by 47%, and increased PaCO2 by 47%. Physostigmine 0.1 mg kg-1 antagonized the effect of morphine on respiration and restored consciousness in the dogs, but did not impair analgesia. It is concluded that physostigmine reverses morphine-induced respiratory depression by prolonging the effect of acetylcholine released from brain-stem neurones. The possibility should be considered of replacing opiate antagonists by physostigmine to reverse postoperative respiratory depression and drowsiness induced by opiates.[1]


  1. Physostigmine antagonizes morphine-induced respiratory depression but not analgesia in dogs and rabbits. Weinstock, M., Roll, D., Erez, E., Bahar, M. British journal of anaesthesia. (1980) [Pubmed]
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