Effects of cocaine in rats exposed to heroin

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003 Dec;28(12):2102-16. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1300284.


We investigated whether chronic exposure to heroin alters responses to cocaine in ways that might explain the use of cocaine by opioid addicts. To this end, the effects of cocaine (5 and 20 mg/kg) were assessed on locomotor activity of rats chronically exposed to heroin (0.0, 3.5, 7.0, and 14.0 mg/kg/day, over 14 days, via osmotic mini-pumps), or withdrawn from heroin (1 day, acute withdrawal, and 14 days, protracted withdrawal). Chronic heroin exposure, in itself, dose dependently increased locomotion and acute cocaine administration further elevated locomotor activity in a dose-dependent and additive manner. During acute withdrawal, there was a dose-dependent decrease in locomotion that was reversed by cocaine in a dose-dependent manner. During protracted withdrawal, spontaneous locomotion normalized, but rats previously exposed to heroin displayed cross-sensitization to cocaine as indicated by small, but significant, enhanced locomotor response to 5 mg/kg of cocaine, and enhanced intravenous self-administration of low doses of cocaine (0.13 mg/kg/infusion). In a separate study, we measured extracellular dopamine (DA) in the nucleus accumbens (Acb) using in vivo microdialysis before and after acute withdrawal from heroin. During chronic exposure to heroin, basal extracellular DA was elevated dose dependently, whereas in acute withdrawal, levels were not different from those in vehicle-treated rats. In response to cocaine, however, DA activity in the Acb was significantly lower in rats withdrawn from the highest dose of heroin.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Routes
  • Drug Interactions
  • Heroin / pharmacology*
  • Heroin Dependence / drug therapy
  • Infusion Pumps
  • Male
  • Microdialysis
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Narcotics / pharmacology*
  • Nucleus Accumbens
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Self Administration
  • Time Factors


  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Narcotics
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine