Erowid References Database
Ellgren M, Spano SM, Hurd YL.
“Adolescent Cannabis Exposure Alters Opiate Intake and Opioid Limbic Neuronal Populations in Adult Rats”.
Neuropsychopharmacology. 2006 July 5;ponline.
Cannabis use is a hypothesized gateway to subsequent abuse of other drugs such as heroin. We currently assessed whether D-9-
tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) exposure during adolescence modulates opiate reinforcement and opioid neural systems in adulthood.
Long–Evan male rats received THC (1.5 mg/kg intraperitoneally (i.p.)) or vehicle every third day during postnatal days (PNDs) 28–49.
Heroin self-administration behavior (fixed ratio-1; 3-h sessions) was studied from young adulthood (PND 57) into full adults (PND 102).
THC-pretreated rats showed an upward shift throughout the heroin self-administration acquisition (30 mg/kg/infusion) phase, whereas
control animals maintained the same pattern once stable intake was obtained. Heightened opiate sensitivity in THC animals was
also evidenced by higher heroin consumption during the maintenance phase (30 and 60 mg/kg/infusion) and greater responding for
moderate–low heroin doses (dose–response curve: 7.5, 15, 30, 60, and 100 mg/kg/injection). Specific disturbance of the endogenous
opioid system was also apparent in the brain of adults with adolescent THC exposure. Striatal preproenkephalin mRNA expression
was exclusively increased in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) shell; the relative elevation of preproenkephalin mRNA in the THC rats was
maintained even after heroin self-administration. Moreover, m opioid receptor (mOR) GTP-coupling was potentiated in mesolimbic
and nigrostriatal brainstem regions in THC-pretreated animals. mOR function in the NAc shell was specifically correlated to heroin intake.
The current findings support the gateway hypothesis demonstrating that adolescence cannabis exposure has an enduring impact on
hedonic processing resulting in enhanced opiate intake, possibly as a consequence of alterations in limbic opioid neuronal populations.
Neuropsychopharmacology advance online publication, 5 July 2006; doi:10.1038/sj.npp.1301127
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