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Synapse. 2003 Mar 15;47(4):243-9.

Subject-regulated dosing alters morphine self-administration behavior and morphine-stimulated [35S]GTPgammaS binding.

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The Laboratory of the Biology of Addictive Diseases, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10021, USA.


Repeated intake of opioids is associated with dose escalation and alterations in signal transduction at the G-protein-coupled receptor level. The current study utilized two experiments to identify factors in rats that influence consumption rates such as daily intake of self-administered morphine and receptor desensitization. In Experiment 1, rats self-administered either 0.30, 1.00, or 3.00 mg/kg/infusion morphine sulfate (morphine) during 7 daily 4-h sessions. For Experiment 2, rats were assigned to groups that self-administered either 1) self-regulated escalating doses of morphine, 2) a fixed dose of morphine, or 3) saline during 18-h sessions for 7 days to determine if dose control would increase consumption without significantly decreasing response rate. We then assessed morphine-stimulated [(35)S]GTPgammaS binding in the amygdala and thalamus from these three groups in Experiment 2. Results from Experiment 1 demonstrated that 0.30 mg/kg/morphine did not support stable self-administration. For Experiment 2, the self-escalation group self-administered more morphine than the fixed-dose group, yet maintained similar response rates. Additionally, self-escalation rats demonstrated decreased morphine-stimulated [(35)S]GTPgammaS binding in membranes prepared from amygdalar and thalamic nuclei compared to the fixed-dose and control groups. Our results suggest that session length inversely affects consumption rates for fixed doses of morphine. Self-regulated dosing of morphine is also associated with rapid escalation of daily consumption and no significant alterations in consumption rates. These results suggest subject-regulated dosing is a useful approach for modeling dose escalation associated with opioid dependence.

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