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Conditioning and opiate withdrawal

The amygdala links neutral stimuli with the agony of overcoming drug addiction.


The habitual behaviour of many opiate addicts means that the aversive symptoms of drug withdrawal are frequently experienced in specific environments1. Stimuli in these environments acquire some of the negative affective properties of opiate withdrawal through pavlovian conditioning, and subsequent exposure to these stimuli alone can then elicit a conditioned withdrawal response that is often associated with drug craving, drug seeking, and relapse back to compulsive drug use after a long abstinence1,2. We show here that selective excitotoxic lesions of the basolateral amygdala, part of the limbic forebrain, prevent the development of conditioned withdrawal in morphine-dependent rats.

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Figure 1: Basolateral amygdala lesions significantly attenuate the conditioned withdrawal produced by a tone/light conditioned stimulus (CS) paired with naloxone during four conditioning trials.


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Correspondence to B. J. Everitt.

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Schulteis, G., Ahmed, S., Morse, A. et al. Conditioning and opiate withdrawal. Nature 405, 1013–1014 (2000).

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