Adolescence and excessive intake of saccharin have each been previously associated with enhanced vulnerability to drug abuse. In the present study, we focused on the relationship between these two factors using male adolescent and adult rats selectively bred for high (HiS) and low (LoS) levels of saccharin intake. On postnatal day 25 (adolescents) or 150 (adults), rats were implanted with an intravenous catheter and trained to self-administer cocaine (0.4 mg/kg) using an autoshaping procedure that consisted of two 6-h sessions. In the first 6 h, rats were given non-contingent cocaine infusions at random intervals 10 times per hour, and during the second 6-h session, rats were allowed to self-administer cocaine under a fixed ratio 1 (FR 1) lever-response contingency. Acquisition was defined as a total of at least 250 infusions over 5 consecutive days, and rats were given 30 days to meet the acquisition criterion. Subsequently, saccharin phenotype scores were determined by comparing 24-h saccharin and water consumption in two-bottle tests to verify HiS/LoS status. Adolescent LoS rats had a faster rate of acquisition of cocaine self-administration than adult LoS rats; however, adolescent and adult HiS rats acquired at the same rate. Both HiS and LoS adolescents had significantly higher saccharin phenotype scores than HiS and LoS adults, respectively. Additionally, saccharin score was negatively correlated with the number of days to meet the acquisition criterion for cocaine self-administration, but this was mostly accounted for by the HiS adolescents. These results suggest that during adolescence, compared with adulthood, rats have both an increased avidity for sweets and vulnerability to initiate drug abuse.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors would like to thank Drs. Erin B. Larson and Jennifer L. Newman and Justin J. Anker, Luke Gliddon, and Jason T. Ross for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. This work was supported by NIH grants R01 DA03240 (MEC), K05 DA15267 (MEC), and F31 DA020237 (JLP).
- Saccharin intake
- Selective breeding