Sensitization refers to an increase in sensitivity to a drug and is believed to play a role in the etiology of substance use disorders. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the ability of the mixed mu/kappa agonist nalbuphine to modulate sensitization to the locomotor and positive reinforcing effects of cocaine. Rats were habituated to a locomotor activity chamber and treated with saline (1.0 ml/kg, ip), cocaine (10 mg/kg, ip), or cocaine+nalbuphine (10 mg/kg, ip) every day for 10 days. Following locomotor activity testing, rats were implanted with intravenous catheters and cocaine self-administration was examined on fixed ratio (FR) and progressive ratio (PR) schedules of reinforcement. Rats treated with cocaine exhibited a progressive increase in locomotor activity over the 10-day treatment period, and this effect was significantly reduced in rats treated with cocaine+nalbuphine. In self-administration tests, rats treated with cocaine exhibited significantly higher levels of responding at a threshold dose of cocaine (0.03 mg/kg/infusion) on both FR and PR schedules than rats treated with saline. This increase in responding at a threshold dose of cocaine was blocked completely in rats treated with cocaine+nalbuphine. These data suggest that nalbuphine attenuates the development of sensitization to the behavioral effects of cocaine.Highlights
▸ Nalbuphine' ability to reduce cocaine-induced sensitization was examined. ▸ Nalbuphine attenuated the increase in locomotor activity induced by cocaine. ▸ Nalbuphine blocked sensitization to the positive reinforcing effects of cocaine.