Relapse to drug use is often cited as the major obstacle in overcoming a drug addiction. Whereas relapse can occur for a myriad of reasons, it is well established that complex neuroadaptations that occur over the course of addiction are major factors. Cocaine, as a potent dopamine transporter blocker, specifically induces alterations in the dopaminergic as well as other monoaminergic neurotransmissions, which lead to cocaine abuse and dependence. Evidence also suggests that adaptations in the endogenous opioids play important roles in pathophysiology of cocaine addiction. Following this evidence, we investigated a combination medication, levo-tetrahydropalmatine (l-THP) and low dose naltrexone (LDN), targeting primarily dopaminergic and endogenous opioid systems as a cocaine-relapse-prevention treatment. In the present study Wistar rats were used to assess the effects of l-THP and LDN on cocaine self-administration, drug-seeking behavior during cocaine reinstatement, spontaneous locomotion, and effects on the endogenous opioid system. We determined that the combination of l-THP and LDN reduces drug-seeking behavior during reinstatement more potently than l-THP alone. Additionally, the combination of l-THP and LDN attenuates the sedative locomotor effect induced by l-THP. Furthermore, we revealed that treatment with the combination of l-THP and LDN has an upregulatory effect on both plasma β-endorphin and hypothalamic POMC that was not observed in l-THP-treated groups. These results suggest that the combination of l-THP and LDN has great potential as an effective and well-tolerated medication for cocaine relapse prevention.
- Received October 27, 2015.
- Accepted February 19, 2016.
The National Institutes of Health National Institute on Drug Abuse [Grant DA-031401 (J.B.W.)] and the National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program supported this work. The authors declare no finical conflict.
- U.S. Government work not protected by U.S. copyright