The kappa-opioid receptor antagonist, nor-binaltorphimine (nor-BNI), decreases morphine withdrawal and the consequent conditioned place aversion in rats

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Much data suggest that the binding of dynorphin-like peptides to kappa-opioid receptors (KORs) during the administration of and withdrawal from a variety of addictive drugs is aversive and serves to limit the reinforcing properties of those drugs and to enhance tolerance, withdrawal, and the probability of stress-induced relapse. In this study, we examined the role of KORs in mediating opioid withdrawal and its aversive consequences in rats. We found that selective blockade of KORs by i.p. administration of 20 mg/kg nor-binaltorphimine (nor-BNI) 5 h prior to naltrexone-precipitated withdrawal in morphine-dependent rats decreased feces excreted during a 30-min withdrawal session. More critically, this injection of nor-BNI decreased the subsequent conditioned place aversion (CPA) for the withdrawal chamber 2 days later. The subsequent finding that administration of nor-BNI 2 h following withdrawal did not affect the CPA 2 days later suggested that nor-BNI reduced the CPA in the prior experiment because it reduced the aversive effects of withdrawal, not because it reduced the aversive/anxiogenic effects of the withdrawal chamber at the time of CPA testing. These data indicate that the binding of dynorphin-like peptides to KORs during opioid withdrawal serves to enhance withdrawal and its aversive consequences and suggest that selective KOR antagonists may be useful in reducing these aversive effects and consequent relapse.

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