Effects of morphine and naloxone on separation distress and approach attachment: evidence for opiate mediation of social affect

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1978 Aug;9(2):213-20. doi: 10.1016/0091-3057(78)90167-3.


In order to determine the relationship between endorphins and social attachment, the effects of morphine (an opiate agonist) and naloxone (an opiate antagonist) on various indices of attachment in guinea pigs were studied. In infants, crying or separation-induced distress vocalizations were significantly decreased by single injections of low morphine doses (0.25, .050 and 0.75 mg/kg) in a dose-dependent manner. Naloxone (1mg/kg1 reliably increased separation distress vocalizations in both juvenile and adult guinea pigs. Therefore, similar to opiate withdrawal symptoms, separation distress appeared to be alleviated by morphine and potentiated by naloxone. As for approach attachment, offspring/maternal proximity-maintenance time was significantly decreased by morphine (1.0, 2.5 and 5.0 mg/kg), suggesting that opiates may be capable of replacing a function normally subserved by endorphins in reinforcing attachments. These data support the hypothesis that an endorphin-based addiction-like process may underlie the maintenance of social attachments, and that separation distress may reflect a state of endogenous "endorphin withdrawal".

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Drug Interactions
  • Emotions / drug effects
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Morphine / pharmacology*
  • Naloxone / pharmacology*
  • Social Behavior / drug effects*
  • Vocalization, Animal / drug effects


  • Naloxone
  • Morphine