The analgesia produced by combinations of low-dose naloxone with pentazocine or morphine was studied in 105 patients with moderately severe postoperative pain after standardized surgery for removal of impacted third molars. Pain intensity was quantified using a visual-analogue scale. To eliminate the release of endogenous opioids produced by the placebo component of open drug administration, all injections were made by a preprogrammed infusion pump. The analgesia produced by pentazocine, an agonist-antagonist opiate-analgesic acting predominantly at the kappa opiate receptor, was potentiated by low-dose naloxone, whereas the analgesia produced by morphine, a mu-agonist, was attenuated by low-dose naloxone. To evaluate whether similar potentiation would be present in an animal model, and specifically, in the absence of diazepam, which patients receive, we performed an analogous experiment in rats in which nociceptive threshold was determined using the Randall-Selitto paw-withdrawal test. The results were completely analogous to the clinical results: pentazocine analgesia was potentiated by low-dose naloxone, whereas morphine analgesia was attenuated by low-dose naloxone. These data demonstrate a novel interaction between opiates, and suggest a rationale for opiate combinations to produce potent analgesia with fewer autonomic side effects and less abuse potential than presently available analgesics.