Author(s): Feltenstein MW, Byrd EA, Henderson AR, See RE
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Abstract Clinical research suggests that gender differences exist in cocaine dependence. Similarly, preclinical studies have shown that female rats exhibit higher response rates during cocaine self-administration, early extinction, and cocaine-primed reinstatement of drug-seeking. These effects are also estrous cycle dependent and inversely related to plasma progesterone, in that proestrus females (high progesterone) exhibit less cocaine-seeking, while estrous females (low progesterone) show the greatest cocaine-seeking. Based on these findings, we hypothesized that progesterone would attenuate cocaine-seeking behavior in intact, freely cycling animals. The role of the estrous cycle on cocaine-seeking behavior during early (first acquisition day) versus late (last maintenance day) cocaine self-administration was also examined. Female, Sprague-Dawley rats self-administered cocaine (0.5 mg/kg/infusion, IV) along a FR1 schedule, followed by daily extinction sessions in the absence of cocaine reinforcement. Once responding was extinguished, rats received an injection of cocaine (10 mg/kg, IP) immediately prior to reinstatement testing. Progesterone (2 mg/kg, SC) or vehicle was administered 20 and 2h prior to the first day of extinction (early cocaine withdrawal) and the reinstatement trials. To determine estrous cycle phase, we assessed vaginal cytology prior to the first acquisition and last maintenance days of cocaine self-administration, the first day of extinction training, and each reinstatement test. During early and late cocaine self-administration, proestrus and estrous females exhibited the greatest levels of active lever responding, respectively. A significant increase in responding also occurred during cocaine-primed reinstatement for estrous versus nonestrous females, an effect that was selectively attenuated by progesterone. However, progesterone was not effective at reducing cocaine-primed reinstatement for females in other phases of the estrous cycle, nor was it effective at reducing cocaine-seeking during early withdrawal. Taken together, these results suggest that progesterone may be a useful therapeutic for preventing relapse in abstinent female cocaine users, especially when the likelihood of relapse is greatest.
This article was published in Psychoneuroendocrinology
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy