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Behav Pharmacol. 2006 Dec;17(8):715-24.

Maternal deprivation specifically enhances vulnerability to opiate dependence.

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Laboratory of Neurobiology and Psychiatry, Inserm U513, Faculty of Medicine, University Paris XII, Créteil, France.


Maternal deprivation has been shown to increase vulnerability to morphine dependence and to disturb the enkephalinergic system in adulthood. To study whether or not this vulnerability to opiates is a specific feature, we examined oral self-administration behaviour of various reinforcing substances. Experiments were performed with morphine (25 mg/l), ethanol (10%), amphetamine (25 mg/l) and cocaine (100 mg/l). Drugs were available in a continuous free choice paradigm during 3 months. Cocaine and ethanol consumption and preference were similar in both deprived and control rats. Deprived rats greatly increased their morphine consumption and 78% of them showed a progressive decrease in morphine aversion. Only a slight, but significant, increase in oral amphetamine consumption was observed in deprived rats when compared with control rats. The difference in amphetamine self-administration in control and deprived rats cannot be explained by a modification of dopamine transporter expression measured by immunoautoradiography. Altogether, we conclude that maternal deprivation worsens inherent susceptibility to dependence, specifically for opiates, and therefore represents a highly valuable model to study environmentally triggered interindividual vulnerability to opiate addiction.

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