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Neuropsychopharmacology. 1992 Nov;7(3):213-24.

Bromocriptine reverses the elevation in intracranial self-stimulation thresholds observed in a rat model of cocaine withdrawal.

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Department of Neuropharmacology, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037.


Cocaine use frequently occurs in episodic prolonged binges. Following such a cocaine binge, the user suffers from severe depression mixed with irritability, anxiety, anergia and anhedonia. These symptoms constitute the cocaine withdrawal syndrome. Since cocaine's rewarding effects are mediated by enhanced dopaminergic neurotransmission in the mesocorticolimbic system, it is possible that a long-acting dopamine agonist might block the withdrawal effects associated with the termination of a prolonged bout of cocaine self-administration. An animal model of post-cocaine anhedonia was developed using the elevation in intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) thresholds following the termination of prolonged periods of cocaine self-administration as a measure of an animal's "anhedonic" state. In the present study, an attempt was made to reverse the postcocaine elevation in ICSS thresholds with acute administration of a dopaminergic agonist, bromocriptine. Rats were allowed to self-administer cocaine for 24 hours continuously. Four hours after the termination of the self-administration session, animals were injected with either vehicle or bromocriptine (1, 2, or 4 mg/kg, IP). Two hours later (6 hours post cocaine), the animals' self-stimulation thresholds were assessed. Confirming previous work, treatment with the vehicle following a cocaine "binge" resulted in elevated ICSS thresholds compared to predrug baseline levels or to control rats' thresholds. Bromocriptine, at doses that had no effect on ICSS thresholds in control rats, reversed the postcocaine anhedonia in a dose-related manner. These results indicate that bromocriptine-like drugs (pharmacological agents that enhance dopaminergic neurotransmission) may be able to ameliorate some of the effects of cocaine withdrawal on mood and motivational state. In addition, the results of the present study indicate that the proposed animal model of cocaine withdrawal could be useful in the discovery and development of new pharmacotherapies for cocaine withdrawal.

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