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Eur J Pharmacol. 1997 Oct 15;337(1):19-25.

Chronic neurosteroid treatment prevents the development of morphine tolerance and attenuates abstinence behavior in mice.

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Department of Pharmacology, University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India.


The effect of neurosteroids on the development of morphine tolerance and dependence was examined in mice. Development of tolerance to the antinociceptive effect of morphine sulfate (10 mg/kg, twice daily for 9 days) was measured in the tail-flick test and dependence was assessed from naloxone (2 mg/kg)-precipitated withdrawal jumps on day 10 of testing. Concomitant chronic administration of neurosteroids, allopregnanolone (0.5 mg/kg), pregnenolone sulfate (2 and 5 mg/kg) or dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (2 and 5 mg/kg), followed by morphine (10 mg/kg) prevented the development of tolerance to the antinociceptive effect of morphine and suppressed the naloxone-precipitated withdrawal jumps. In contrast, dehydroepiandrosterone acetate (5 mg/kg) failed to modulate the morphine tolerance and dependence. The inhibitory effect was also seen upon concomitant administration of a neurosteroid precursor, progesterone (1-10 mg/kg), and a mitochondrial diazepam binding inhibitor receptor agonist, 4'-chlordiazepam (0.25-1 mg/kg), while an adrenocorticosteroid, hydrocortisone (1 and 10 mg/kg), failed to do so. However, acute treatment with these neurosteroids was not associated with any decrease in withdrawal jumping behavior in morphine-dependent mice. Neurosteroids themselves, at doses employed in the study, did not exert any effects on antinociception. These results support a role for neurosteroids in the development of tolerance to and dependence on morphine and suggest the potential utility of specific neuroactive steroids in its treatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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