Social influences on morphine sensitization in adolescent rats


Shoshana Eitan, Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University, 4235 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843, USA. E-mail:


Given that social influences are among the strongest predictors of adolescents' drug use, this study examines the effects of social interactions on morphine sensitization in both adolescent and adult rats. Rats treated with morphine (twice daily, 6 days, 2.5–10 mg/kg, subcutaneously, s.c.) or saline were group-housed in two different conditions. Thus, four experimental groups were examined for each age group: (1) morphine-treated rats housed physically and visually separate from saline-injected rats (‘morphine only’); (2) morphine-treated rats housed together with saline-injected rats (‘morphine cage-mates’); (3) saline-injected rats housed together with morphine-treated rats (‘saline cage-mates’); and (4) saline-injected rats housed physically and visually separate from morphine-treated rats (‘saline only’). Starting 9 days following the last morphine injection, rats were individually examined once daily for 5 consecutive days for their locomotor response to 2.5 mg/kg of morphine. For both age groups, there were no significant differences in morphine-induced hyper-locomotion between saline cage-mates and saline only rats. Morphine only rats exhibited morphine locomotor sensitization as compared to both the saline only and saline cage-mates rats. Notably, a significant difference was observed between the adolescent morphine cage-mates and morphine only rats. The adolescent morphine cage-mates did not exhibit the enhanced locomotor response as compared to the saline only and saline cage-mate rats. A trend of reduced morphine locomotor sensitization was observed in the adult morphine cage-mates as compared to morphine only but it did not reach statistical significance. Thus, this study demonstrates social influences on morphine sensitization which are more prevalent in adolescents as compared to adults.