Establishing Preclinical Withdrawal Syndrome Symptomatology Following Heroin Self-Administration in Male and Female Rats

Cassandra D. Gipson, Kelly E. Dunn, Amanda Bull, Hanaa Ulangkaya, Aronee Hossain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a significant health problem, and understanding mechanisms of various aspects of OUD including drug use and withdrawal is important. Preclinical models provide an ideal opportunity to evaluate mechanisms underlying opioid withdrawal. Current models are limited by their reliance upon forced opioid administration, focus on the acute (and not protracted) syndrome, and exclusion of women. In this study, male and female rats self-administered heroin (maintenance dose of 12.5 μg/kg/infusion) opioid withdrawal after abrupt discontinuation was measured. In Phase 1, acute withdrawal symptoms were rated in male and female rats at 0, 16, 48, and 72 hr after the last self-administration session. Total somatic signs increased until 48 hr (predominantly in women), and heroin intake positively correlated with total somatic signs at the 48 and 72 hr timepoints. Measures of hyperactivity and anxiety-like behavior increased by 16 and 48 hr, respectively. In Phase 2, symptoms were assessed at baseline, acute, and protracted (168 and 312 hr after self-administration) timepoints in a subset of male and female rats from Phase 1. The total number of somatic signs did not differ across timepoints, though women displayed significantly higher body temperature at all timepoints compared with men, indicating sex-specific protracted withdrawal symptomatology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)636-649
Number of pages14
JournalExperimental and clinical psychopharmacology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Heroin
  • Opioid
  • Self-administration
  • Timecourse
  • Withdrawal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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