Withdrawal from amphetamine increases anxiety and reduces the ability to cope with stress, which are factors that are believed to contribute to drug relapse. Stress-induced serotonergic transmission in the central nucleus of the amygdala is associated with anxiety states and fear. Conversely, stress-induced increases in ventral hippocampal serotonin (5-HT) levels have been linked to coping mechanisms. The goal of this study was to investigate the neurobiological changes induced by amphetamine that contribute to stress sensitivity during withdrawal. We tested the hypothesis that limbic serotonergic responses to restraint stress would be altered in male Sprague-Dawley rats chronically pretreated with amphetamine (2.5 mg/kg, intraperitoneal) and then subjected to 2 weeks of withdrawal. Amphetamine withdrawal resulted in increased stress-induced behavioral arousal relative to control treatment, suggesting that drug withdrawal induced greater sensitivity to the stressor. When microdialysis was used to determine the effects of restraint on extracellular 5-HT, stress-induced increases in 5-HT levels were abolished in the ventral hippocampus and augmented in the central amygdala during amphetamine withdrawal. Reverse dialysis of the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist mifepristone into the ventral hippocampus blocked the stress-induced increase in 5-HT levels in saline-pretreated rats, suggesting that glucocorticoid receptors mediate stress-induced increases in 5-HT levels in the ventral hippocampus. However, mifepristone had no effect on stress-induced increases in 5-HT levels in the central amygdala, indicating that stress increases 5-HT levels in this region independently of glucocorticoid receptors. During amphetamine withdrawal, the absence of stress-induced increases in ventral hippocampal 5-HT levels combined with enhanced stress-induced serotonergic responses in the central amygdala may contribute to drug relapse by decreasing stress-coping ability and heightening stress responsiveness.
- Glucocorticoid receptor
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