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 keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
You May Also Like
DEC 06, 2019
Health & Medicine
DEC 06, 2019
Federal Restrictions Make It Hard For Cannabis Researchers
With marijuana use becoming more popular in aiding health, scientists race to find clarity around its health benefits an ...
FEB 28, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
FEB 28, 2020
Vaping Harms Microbiome, Increases Infection and Inflammation
Researchers have found that vaping e-cigarettes may change the composition of the mouth’s microbiome, something th ...
MAR 13, 2020
Health & Medicine
MAR 13, 2020
Congressional Committee Advances Medical Marijuana Bills for Veterans
The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee recently advanced two bills relating to veteran use of medical marijuana.&nb ...
MAR 16, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
MAR 16, 2020
Cannabis Reduces ADHD Med Use in New Study
As the legalization of medical cannabis increases in the U.S. and around the globe, its effects on a variety of conditio ...
APR 04, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
APR 04, 2020
Only 50% Cannabis Genome Has Been Mapped
As more and more jurisdictions are decriminalizing cannabis usage, its popularity both for medicinal and recreational us ...
MAY 16, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
MAY 16, 2020
Body's Own Cannabis Helps Us Forget Traumatic Events
Researchers have found that anandamide, often referred to as the body’s own cannabis, may help us forget traumatic ...
Loading Comments...