Somatic and anxiety-like behaviors in male and female rats during withdrawal from the non-selective cannabinoid agonist WIN 55,212–2

Abigail L. Brewer, Claire E. Felter, Anna R. Sternitzky, Sade M. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Synthetic cannabinoids are associated with higher risk of dependence and more intense withdrawal symptoms than plant-derived Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Avoidance of withdrawal symptoms, including anxiogenic effects, can contribute to continued cannabinoid use. Adult male and female Long-Evans rats were given escalating doses of WIN 55,212–2 (WIN) via twice daily intrajugular infusions. Precipitated withdrawal was elicited with SR 141716 (rimonabant) 4 h after the final infusion. Global withdrawal scores (GWS) were compiled by summing z-scores of observed somatic behaviors over a 30-min period with locomotor activity simultaneously collected via beam breaks. Rimonabant precipitated withdrawal in female and male rats at 3 or 10 mg/kg, respectively, but the individual behaviors contributing to GWS were not identical. 3 mg/kg rimonabant did not impact locomotor behavior in females, but 10 mg/kg decreased locomotion in male controls. Spontaneous withdrawal observed between 6 and 96 h after the final infusion was quantifiable up to 24 h following WIN administration. Individual behaviors contributing to GWS varied by sex and time point. Males undergoing spontaneous withdrawal engaged in more locomotion than females undergoing withdrawal. Separate groups of rats were subjected to a battery of anxiety-like behavioral tests (elevated plus maze, open field test, and marble burying test) one or two weeks after WIN or vehicle infusions. At one week abstinence, sex-related effects were noted in marble burying and the open field test but were unrelated to drug treatment. At two weeks abstinence, females undergoing withdrawal spent more time grooming during marble burying and performed more marble manipulations than their male counterparts. WIN infusions did not impact estrous cycling, and GWS scores were not correlated with estrous at withdrawal. Collectively, these results show qualitative sex differences in behaviors contributing to the behavioral experience of cannabinoid withdrawal supporting clinical findings from THC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number173707
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

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© 2024 Elsevier Inc.


  • Anxiety-like behaviors
  • Cannabinoid withdrawal
  • Rodent models of withdrawal
  • Sex differences
  • Synthetic cannabinoid

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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