Cannabidiol disrupts the reconsolidation of contextual drug-associated memories in Wistar rats

Addict Biol. 2017 May;22(3):742-751. doi: 10.1111/adb.12366. Epub 2016 Feb 1.


In addicts, craving and relapse are frequently induced by the recall of memories related to a drug experience. Several studies have demonstrated that drug-related memories are reactivated after exposure to environmental cues and may undergo reconsolidation, a process that can strengthen memories. Thus, reactivation of mnemonic traces provides an opportunity for disrupting memories that contribute to the pathological cycle of addiction. Here we used drug-induced conditioned place preference (CPP) to investigate whether cannabidiol (CBD), a phytocannabinoid, given just after reactivation sessions, would affect reconsolidation of drug-reward memory, reinstatement of morphine-CPP, or conditioned place aversion precipitated by naltrexone in Wistar rats. We found that CBD impaired the reconsolidation of preference for the environment previously paired with both morphine and cocaine. This disruption seems to be persistent, as the preference did not return after further reinstatement induced by priming drug and stress reinstatement. Moreover, in an established morphine-CPP, an injection of CBD after the exposure to a conditioning session led to a significant reduction of both morphine-CPP and subsequent conditioned place aversion precipitated by naltrexone in the same context. Thus, established memories induced by a drug of abuse can be blocked after reactivation of the drug experience. Taken together, these results provide evidence for the disruptive effect of CBD on reconsolidation of contextual drug-related memories and highlight its therapeutic potential to attenuate contextual memories associated with drugs of abuse and consequently to reduce the risk of relapse.

Keywords: cannabidiol; conditioned place preference; memory reconsolidation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabidiol / pharmacology*
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage
  • Conditioning, Classical / drug effects*
  • Cues*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Mental Recall / drug effects*
  • Morphine / administration & dosage
  • Naltrexone / administration & dosage
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reward


  • Cannabidiol
  • Naltrexone
  • Morphine
  • Cocaine