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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Sep;223(1):75-88. doi: 10.1007/s00213-012-2691-3. Epub 2012 Mar 31.

The effect of intermittent alcohol vapor or pulsatile heroin on somatic and negative affective indices during spontaneous withdrawal in Wistar rats.

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Laboratory of Alcoholism and Addictions Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, Washington State University, 100 Dairy Road, 644820, Pullman, WA 99164-4820, USA.



Once dependent on alcohol or opioids, negative affect may accompany withdrawal. Dependent individuals are hypothesized to "self-medicate" in order to cope with withdrawal, which promotes escalated alcohol and drug use.


The current study aimed to develop a reliable animal model to assess symptoms that occur during spontaneous alcohol and opioid withdrawal.


Dependence was induced using intermittent alcohol exposure or pulsatile heroin delivery and assessed for the presence of withdrawal symptoms during acute withdrawal by measuring somatic signs, behavior in the forced swim test (FST), and air-puff-induced 22-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs). Additional animals subjected to 8 weeks of alcohol vapor exposure were evaluated for altered somatic signs, operant alcohol self-administration, and 22-kHz USV production, as well as performance in the elevated plus maze (EPM).


During spontaneous withdrawal from pulsatile heroin or intermittent alcohol vapor, animals displayed increased somatic withdrawal signs, FST immobility, and 22-kHz USV production but did not show any behavioral change in the EPM unless the duration of alcohol exposure was extended to 4 weeks. Following 8 weeks of alcohol vapor exposure, animals displayed somatic withdrawal signs, escalated alcohol self-administration, and increased 22-kHz USVs.


These paradigms provide consistent methods to evaluate the behavioral ramifications, and neurobiological substrates, of alcohol and opioid dependence during spontaneous withdrawal. As immobility in the FST and percent open-arm time in the EPM were dissociable, with 22-kHz USVs paralleling immobility in the FST, assessment of air-puff-induced 22-kHz USVs could provide an ethologically valid alternative to the FST.

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