Paradoxical changes in brain reward status during oxycodone self-administration in a novel test of the negative reinforcement hypothesis.

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The extra-medical use of, and addiction to, prescription opioid analgesics is a growing health problem. To characterize how prescription opioid abuse develops, this study investigated the affective consequences of escalating prescription opioid use using intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) reward and oxycodone intravenous self-administration (IVSA) models.Male Wistar rats were given access to oxycodone IVSA (0.15 mg/kg/infusion, i.v.) in Short Access (ShA; 1 h) or Long Access (LgA; 12 h) sessions for 5 sessions/week followed by intermittent 60 h discontinuations from drug access, a novel explicit test of the negative reinforcement hypothesis. Separate groups were first trained in the ICSS procedure and then in oxycodone IVSA in 11 h LgA sessions.Rats given LgA to oxycodone escalated their responding more than ShA rats, with further significant increases observed following each 60 h discontinuation. Pre-session brain reward thresholds increased with sequential daily LgA IVSA sessions, consistent with a growing negative affective state consequent to successive daily intoxication/abstinence cycles. A 1 h oxycodone IVSA interval was sufficient to normalize these elevated reward thresholds, as was, paradoxically, a 60 h weekend abstinence. The increase in ICSS thresholds was attenuated in a group treated with the long-acting kappa opioid antagonist norBNI prior to IVSA training.Changes in brain reward function during escalation of oxycodone self-administration are driven by an interplay between kappa opioid receptor-mediated negative affective state associated with escalated oxycodone intake and dynamic restoration of brain reward status during longer periods of abstinence.

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Authors: Jacques D Nguyen, Yanabel Grant, Michael A Taffe