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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2011 May;337(2):487-93. doi: 10.1124/jpet.111.179317. Epub 2011 Feb 8.

Chronic N-acetylcysteine during abstinence or extinction after cocaine self-administration produces enduring reductions in drug seeking.

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Department of Neurosciences, Medical University of South Carolina, 173 Ashley Ave., Charleston, SC 29425, USA.


The cysteine prodrug N-acetylcysteine (NAC) has been shown to reduce reinstatement of cocaine seeking by normalization of glutamatergic tone. However, enduring inhibition of cocaine seeking produced by NAC has not been explored under different withdrawal conditions. Thus, the present study determined whether chronic NAC administered during daily extinction training or daily abstinence after withdrawal from cocaine self-administration would reduce cocaine seeking. Rats self-administered intravenous cocaine during daily 2-h sessions for 12 days, followed by daily extinction or abstinence sessions. During this period, rats received daily injections of saline or NAC (60 or 100 mg/kg). Subsequently, rats were tested for cocaine seeking via conditioned cue, cue + cocaine-primed, and context-induced relapse. Chronic NAC administration blunted cocaine seeking under multiple experimental protocols. Specifically, NAC attenuated responding during cue and cue + cocaine-primed reinstatement tests after extinction and context, cue, and cue + cocaine relapse tests after abstinence. Protection from relapse by NAC persisted well after treatment was discontinued, particularly when the high dose was combined with extinction trials. The finding that NAC reduced cocaine seeking after drug treatment was discontinued has important implications for the development of effective antirelapse medications. These results support recent preclinical and clinical findings that NAC may serve as an effective treatment for inhibiting relapse in cocaine addicts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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