Development of physical dependence on morphine in respect to time and dosage and quantification of the precipitated withdrawal syndrome in rats

Research paper by J. BlÄsig, A. Herz, K. Reinhold, S. ZieglgÄnsberger

Indexed on: 01 Mar '73Published on: 01 Mar '73Published in: Psychopharmacology


In rats implanted subcutaneously with morphine containing pellets different degrees of dependence were induced by varying the dosage, frequency of implantation and duration of exposure to morphine. Withdrawal was precipitated by intraperitoneal injection of morphine antagonists, mostly levallorphan. The absorption of morphine from the subcutaneous depots was estimated chemically.When withdrawal was precipitated with a constant dose of antagonist the frequency of occurrence of various counted signs and the presence of some checked signs were studied in respect to varying degrees of dependence. The results were compared to those obtained after administration of increasing doses of antagonist in groups of animals that had developed a constant degree of dependence.In both types of experiments the results were rather similar. Some signs became progressively more pronounced when dependence got stronger or the dose of the antagonist was increased. In contrast, other signs showed a maximal frequency at the lower degrees of dependence or after administration of the lower doses of antagonist and decreased or even disappeared when the degree of dependence was higher or the dose of antagonist further increased. Obviously, in withdrawal the intensity of “recessive” signs like writhing and wet dog shaking declines when “dominant” signs like jumping, flying (a vigorous kind of jumping) and teeth chattering increase. An inverse relationship between the occurrence of various signs could also be shown within the 30 min observation period. Changes in the integrative mechanisms controlling behaviour during withdrawal are supposed to be the reason for this shift of signs.In other experiments in which the interval between each morphine implantation was prolonged the frequency of some signs like jumping and teeth chattering tented to plateau. This finding seems to be correlated to some kind of steady state on resorption of morphine from the subcutaneous depots, as was found in chemical analysis.