Pre-exposure to the cannabinoid receptor agonist CP 55,940 enhances morphine behavioral sensitization and alters morphine self-administration in Lewis rats

Christy S. Norwood, Jennifer L. Cornish, Paul E. Mallet, Iain S. McGregor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Three experiments examined the influence of pre-exposure to the cannabinoid receptor agonist CP 55,940 ((-)-cis-3-(2-hydroxy-4-(1,1-dimethylheptyl)phenyl)-trans-4-(3- hydroxypropyl)cyclohexanol) on the sensitization of morphine-induced locomotor hyperactivity and self-administration in Lewis rats. In Experiment 1, rats received daily injections of vehicle or CP 55,940 (0.1 mg/kg for 7 days then 0.2 mg/kg for a further 7 days). Four weeks later, the locomotor response to morphine (10 mg/kg s.c.) was tested once per day over a 3-h period for 14 consecutive days. Rats given morphine showed hypoactivity during the first hour following morphine but hyperactivity during the second and third hours. A progressive increase in hyperactivity to morphine was seen over the 14 days of administration, which was significantly greater in rats pre-treated with CP 55,940. In Experiment 2, rats were given morphine (10 mg/kg) once a day for 14 days in combination with either vehicle, CP 55,940 (0.1 mg/kg) or the cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist SR 141716 (N-(piperidin-1-yl)-5-(4-chlorophenyl)-1-(2,4-dichlorophenyl)-4-methyl-1H- pyrazole-3-carboxamide hydrochloride) (3 mg/kg). Both CP 55,940 and SR 141716 initially inhibited the hyperactive response to morphine, but these effects gradually wore off and by the end of 14 days, hyperactivity was similar in all morphine-treated groups. When tested 3 weeks later for their response to morphine (10 mg/kg) given alone, rats previously given the morphine/CP 55,940 combination, but not the SR 141716/morphine combination, showed a greater locomotor stimulation than those previously exposed to morphine only. In Experiment 3, rats were pre-exposed to CP 55,940 or vehicle for 14 days and were subsequently trained to self-administer morphine intravenously (1 mg/kg per lever press) for 14 days. Rats pre-exposed to CP 55,940 self-administered a significantly greater number of morphine infusions than vehicle pre-exposed rats. However, both active and inactive ('dummy') lever presses were increased by cannabinoid pre-treatment. Overall, these results suggest that cannabinoid pre-exposure can lead to an exaggeration of morphine-induced hyperactivity and may alter the reinforcing effects of morphine in Lewis rats. The implications for 'gateway' theories of cannabinoid effects in humans are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-114
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • (Lewis rat)
  • Cannabinoid receptor agonist
  • CP 55,940
  • Morphine
  • Self-administration


Dive into the research topics of 'Pre-exposure to the cannabinoid receptor agonist CP 55,940 enhances morphine behavioral sensitization and alters morphine self-administration in Lewis rats'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this