Differentiating the discriminative stimulus effects of gamma-hydroxybutyrate and ethanol in a three-choice drug discrimination procedure in rats

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Anecdotal reports indicate that GHB produces subjective effects similar to those of ethanol. However, recent investigations comparing the discriminative stimulus effects of GHB to those of ethanol suggest that the subjective effects of these substances may differ considerably. To explore further potential differences between GHB and ethanol, 16 male Sprague–Dawley rats were trained in a three-lever drug discrimination procedure to discriminate ethanol (1.0 g/kg, experiment 1; 1.5 g/kg, experiment 2) and GHB (300 mg/kg) from vehicle. Dose–response functions determined with both training compounds revealed a clear dissociation between the discriminative stimulus effects of these drugs. As expected, the GHB precursors gamma-butyrolactone and 1,4-butanediol produced full substitution for GHB. In addition, the GABAB receptor agonist baclofen substituted for GHB, whereas the benzodiazepine flunitrazepam and the NMDA receptor antagonist ketamine engendered greater responding on the ethanol-lever. GHB's discriminative stimulus effects were blocked by the GABAB receptor antagonist CGP-35348 but only partially blocked by the putative GHB receptor antagonist NCS 382. These findings are consistent with previous reports of GHB's discriminative stimulus effects in two-choice drug discrimination procedures and provide additional evidence that these effects are distinct from those of ethanol.

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