Effects of age, but not sex, on elevated startle during withdrawal from acute morphine in adolescent and adult rats

Behav Pharmacol. 2015 Aug;26(5):485-8. doi: 10.1097/FBP.0000000000000151.


Investigations into animal models of drug withdrawal have largely found that emotional signs of withdrawal (e.g. anxiety, anhedonia, and aversion) in adolescents are experienced earlier and less severely than in their adult counterparts. The majority of these reports have examined withdrawal from ethanol or nicotine. To expand our knowledge about the emotional withdrawal state in adolescent rats, we used potentiation of the acoustic startle reflex after an acute dose of morphine (10 mg/kg, subcutaneously) as a measure of opiate withdrawal. Startle was measured at four time points after morphine injection (2, 3, 4, and 5 h) in 28-day-old and 90-day-old male and female rats. The results of this experiment revealed that peak potentiation of the startle reflex occurred at 3 h in the adolescent rats and at 5 h in the adult rats, and that the magnitude of withdrawal was larger in the adults. No sex differences were observed. Overall, these results affirm that, similar to withdrawal from ethanol and nicotine, opiate withdrawal signs are less severe in adolescent than in adult rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Aging / drug effects
  • Aging / physiology
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Male
  • Morphine / pharmacology
  • Morphine / toxicity*
  • Narcotics / pharmacology
  • Narcotics / toxicity*
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reflex, Startle / drug effects
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology*
  • Time Factors


  • Narcotics
  • Morphine