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The occurrence of a relapse during abstinence is an important issue that must be addressed during treatment for drug addiction. We investigated the influence of drug exposure pattern on morphine-seeking behaviour following withdrawal. We also studied the role of the hippocampus in this process to confirm its involvement in drug relapse.
Male Sprague–Dawley rats that were trained to self-administer morphine (1.0 mg/kg) using 2, 4, 6, 8, or 10 h daily sessions underwent withdrawal in their home cages and were re-exposed to the operant chamber to evaluate morphine-seeking behaviour. During the relapse session, rats were intravenously injected with morphine (0.25 mg/kg) or saline before re-exposure to the chamber. In the second experiment, rats were administered a microinjection of saline or cobalt chloride (CoCl2, 1 mM), a synaptic blocker, into the CA1 of the hippocampus prior to the relapse test.
In the first experiment, more morphine-seeking behaviour was observed in the 2 h group (animals trained to self-administer morphine during a 2 h daily session spread over 21 days) during the relapse session, despite all groups being exposed to similar amounts of morphine during the training period before withdrawal. In the second experiment, pretreatment with CoCl2 markedly reduced morphine-seeking behaviour in the 2 h group.
The present findings suggest that the exposure pattern influences the degree of relapse and that control of memorisation is important for prevention of relapse.
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