Relapse to cocaine- and heroin-seeking behavior mediated by dopamine D2 receptors is time-dependent and associated with behavioral sensitization

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2002 Jan;26(1):18-26. doi: 10.1016/S0893-133X(01)00293-7.


The sensitizing properties of drugs of abuse have been proposed to play an important role in the persistence of drug seeking behavior. We decided to evaluate the temporal relationship of dopamine D2 receptor-mediated drug seeking behavior and behavioral sensitization in animals with a history of cocaine and heroin self-administration. During early phases of withdrawal (<1 week), activation of dopamine D2 receptors with quinpirole resulted in robust, dose-dependent, reinstatement of (non-reinforced) responding in both cocaine- and heroin-trained rats. Cocaine and heroin seeking induced by quinpirole was associated with a dramatic enhancement of the psychomotor stimulant effects of the D2 agonist, indicating that sensitization to D2-mediated events had developed. During the late phase of withdrawal (>3 weeks), reinstatement of cocaine seeking by quinpirole was still apparent, but less robust. In heroin-trained rats, increases of responding were no longer observed. Interestingly, behavioral sensitization to quinpirole was still observed in cocaine-trained rats, but was absent in heroin-trained rats. Thus, it appears that dopamine D2 receptors have a time-dependent role in relapse to cocaine and heroin seeking which is strongly associated with a behaviorally sensitized state.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / metabolism*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Dopamine Agonists / pharmacology
  • Heroin Dependence / metabolism*
  • Heroin Dependence / psychology*
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Quinpirole / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / drug effects*
  • Self Administration
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology
  • Time Factors


  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Quinpirole