Potentiation of morphine-induced antinociception and locomotion by citalopram is accompanied by anxiolytic-like effects

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Abstract

Morphine and related opioids are the mainstay of analgesic treatment, especially in patients suffering chronic pain. Besides their antinociceptive effects they may also exhibit anxiolytic-like properties that could contribute to pain relief. The pharmacological manipulation of the serotonergic system may not only modulate pain transmission and processing but also other behavioral effects of opioids. The present study aimed to analyze the effect of the concurrent treatment with citalopram, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, on the antinociceptive, locomotor and anxiety-related effects induced by acute and subchronic administration of morphine in mice. Citalopram (15 mg/kg) enhanced the acute antinociceptive effects of morphine when concurrently administered as evidenced by a two-fold increase in the ED50 for the antinociceptive effect of morphine in the hot-plate test. Chronic studies also revealed that concurrent citalopram treatment (15 mg/kg) delayed the development of tolerance to the thermal antinociceptive effects of morphine. Additionally, morphine-induced hyperlocomotion was potentiated by citalopram as assessed in the open-field test and in the spontaneous activity recording in the home cage, a behavioral outcome to which tolerance or desensitization was not developed. Interestingly, chronic administration of both drugs promoted an anxiolytic effect as evidenced by the increased central activity in the open field test. Future investigations on this pharmacological interaction, such as the possible translational research in clinics, might have consequences in future strategies for the therapeutic management of pain.

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