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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2009 Mar;33(3):435-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2008.00854.x. Epub 2008 Dec 13.

Combined scopolamine and ethanol treatment results in a locomotor stimulant response suggestive of synergism that is not blocked by dopamine receptor antagonists.

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  • 1Portland Alcohol Research Center and Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon, USA.



Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs) are well positioned to mediate ethanol's stimulant effects. To investigate this possibility, we examined the effects of scopolamine, a receptor subtype nonselective mAChR antagonist, on ethanol-induced stimulation in genotypes highly sensitive to this effect of ethanol. We also investigated whether the dopamine D1-like receptor antagonist, SCH-23390 or the dopamine D2-like receptor antagonist, haloperidol, could block the extreme stimulant response found following co-administration of scopolamine and ethanol.


Scopolamine (0, 0.0625, 0.125, 0.25, or 0.5 mg/kg) was given 10 minutes prior to saline or ethanol (0.75 to 2 g/kg) to female FAST (Experiment I) or DBA/2J (Experiment II) mice that were then tested for locomotion for 30 minutes. In Experiments III and IV, respectively, SCH-23390 (0, 0.015, or 0.03 mg/kg) was given 10 minutes prior, and haloperidol (0, 0.08, or 0.16 mg/kg) was given 2 minutes prior, to scopolamine (0 or 0.5 mg/kg), followed 10 minutes later by saline or ethanol (1.5 g/kg) and female DBA/2J mice were tested for locomotion for 30 minutes.


FAST and DBA/2J mice displayed a robust enhancement of the locomotor effects of ethanol following pretreatment with scopolamine that was suggestive of synergism. SCH-23390 had no effect on the response to the scopolamine + ethanol drug combination, nor did it attenuate ethanol- or scopolamine-induced locomotor activity. Haloperidol, while attenuating the effects of ethanol, was not able to block the effects of scopolamine or the robust response to the scopolamine-ethanol drug combination.


These results suggest that while muscarinic receptor antagonism robustly enhances acute locomotor stimulation to ethanol, dopamine receptors are not involved in the super-additive interaction of scopolamine and ethanol treatment. They also suggest that in addition to cautions regarding the use of alcohol when scopolamine is clinically prescribed due to enhanced sedative effects, enhanced stimulation may also be a concern.

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