APR 05, 2020 3:24 PM PDT

Rats Develop Drug-Seeking Behavior After Cannabis Withdrawal

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

A recent study from Washington State University has found that rats with regular access to cannabis tend to show drug-seeking behavior once it is confiscated. 

For the study, the researchers trained male rats to poke their noses through small ports within a Plexiglass compartment with a constant flow od tetrahydrocannabinol-rich (THC) whole-plant cannabis vapor. Over the course of 21 days, the rats were able to inhale vapor during daily one hour sessions marked by a cue light. Meanwhile, another group of rats received cannabidiol-rich vapor while a control group received neither. 

By the third day, the researchers observed that the rats had already begun to establish associations between the nose pokes and inhalation of cannabis vapor. In the end, they found that between days 4 and 21, those exposed to THC-rich vapor poked their noses into the glass more frequently than those in the other groups. In fact, those in the THC groups sometimes underwent double the number of vapor deliveries than those in the other groups. 

However, it was when day 22 came around, and the cannabis vapor was confiscated, that the most shocking results came. Ryan McLaughlin, one of the study’s authors, said, “They would show a burst in responding....It went from 17 to 18 nose pokes up to 70 or 80 on average. They were trying to figure out why it wasn’t working.”

Meanwhile, Tim Freels, first author of the paper, said, “It was similar to when you have someone who has stopped smoking cannabis for a while but then sees their pipe or their vape pen, immediately that cue makes them want to seek that drug again.”

Although rat model studies may not portray human behavior with as much precision as human studies may, the researchers nevertheless noted that the rats seemed to experience many of the same withdrawal effects from cannabis as humans do. 

The researchers now intend to study this mechanism further. McLaughlin said, “We urgently need more information on the effects of cannabis use on the developing brain, and this model will be important for identifying potential risks that can be relayed to human cannabis users.”


Sources: Washington State University, JNeurosci, Medical News Today

About the Author
  • Science writer with a keen interest in behavioral biology, consciousness medicine and technology. Her current focus is how the interplay of these fields can create meaningful interactions, products and environments.
You May Also Like
APR 12, 2021
Health & Medicine
Chronic Pain Patients Can Find Long-Term Success Using Cannabis
APR 12, 2021
Chronic Pain Patients Can Find Long-Term Success Using Cannabis
Many users report immediate pain relief from using medical cannabis, but now a recently published study suggests chronic ...
MAY 19, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
DEA Ends the Monopoly on "Research-Grade" Cannabis
MAY 19, 2021
DEA Ends the Monopoly on "Research-Grade" Cannabis
The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has slipped out an announcement that’s going to have a huge impact on ...
MAY 25, 2021
Health & Medicine
Randomized Controlled Trial Assessing Cannabis Use for Migraine Begins
MAY 25, 2021
Randomized Controlled Trial Assessing Cannabis Use for Migraine Begins
Cannabis has been used to soothe headaches since almost the dawn of time, but there have been few studies — and ce ...
JUN 02, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Can CBD Help Manage Symptoms of Diabetes?
JUN 02, 2021
Can CBD Help Manage Symptoms of Diabetes?
As cannabidiol (CBD) products become increasingly mainstream, more people are using them to manage symptoms for chronic ...
JUL 08, 2021
Health & Medicine
Past Cannabis Use No Longer Barrier to Joining FBI
JUL 08, 2021
Past Cannabis Use No Longer Barrier to Joining FBI
Without trumpet or fanfare, the hard line recruitment policy the FBI had held around cannabis use has been changed to be ...
JUL 11, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
How Does Cannabis Affect Birth Control?
JUL 11, 2021
How Does Cannabis Affect Birth Control?
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2015 and 2017, 64.9% of women in the US w ...
Loading Comments...