Public Release: 

Menstrual cycle phase influences cocaine craving

Addicted female rats have stronger craving for cocaine during estrus than non-estrus, according to a study in Biological Psychiatry

Elsevier

Philadelphia, March 5, 2019

Menstrual cycle may influence addiction risk in women, according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse and University of Maryland School of Medicine. In female rats, craving for cocaine during abstinence from the drug was stronger during estrus--the phase in which ovulation occurs--than non-estrus, and female rats were more prone to relapse of cocaine use than male rats. This new link between menstrual cycle and drug craving may help explain differences between men and women in cocaine seeking and vulnerability to relapse after quitting.

"Sex differences are extremely important in addiction. This new study suggests that the period around ovulation is the most vulnerable period for promoting addiction. This knowledge has implications for both prevention and treatment," said John Krystal, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

"To the degree that results from animal models generalize to humans, our findings implicate the phase of the menstrual cycle as a risk factor for relapse in women and, therefore, should be taken into consideration in the development of relapse prevention treatments," said senior author Satoshi Ikemoto, PhD, NIDA.

To assess the influence of the menstrual cycle on addiction, first author Céline Nicolas, PhD, NIDA, and colleagues used a model of cocaine use in rats that mimics the intermittent binge-like pattern of human cocaine use. They compared this model with the standard rat model of cocaine use that provides continuous access to the drug. Although both access models led to progressively increased cocaine seeking during abstinence, referred to as incubation of cocaine craving, cocaine seeking was higher after intermittent access.

Regardless of the type of access provided to the rats, cocaine seeking was higher in female rats than male rats. "In female rats, the magnitude of cocaine craving was critically dependent on the phase of the estrous cycle, demonstrating a novel role of ovarian hormones in incubation of cocaine craving," said Dr. Ikemoto.

Previous studies in humans suggest that women relapse faster after quitting cocaine and have stronger craving than men. The new findings reveal that the estrous cycle may contribute to these differences between women and men and highlight a potential target to help prevent relapse in women.

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Notes for editors
The article is "Incubation of cocaine craving after intermittent access cocaine self-administration: sex differences and estrous cycle," by Céline Nicolas, Trinity I. Russell, Anne F. Pierce, Steeve Maldera, Amanda Holley, Zhi-Bing You, Margaret M. McCarthy, Yavin Shaham, and Satoshi Ikemoto (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.01.015). It appears in Biological Psychiatry, published by Elsevier.

Copies of this paper are available to credentialed journalists upon request; please contact Rhiannon Bugno at Biol.Psych@sobp.org or +1 214 648 0880. Journalists wishing to interview the authors may contact Céline Nicolas, PhD, at celine.nicolas@nih.gov.

The authors' affiliations and disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available in the article.

John H. Krystal, MD, is Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, Chief of Psychiatry at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and a research psychiatrist at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. His disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available here.

About Biological Psychiatry
Biological Psychiatry is the official journal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry, whose purpose is to promote excellence in scientific research and education in fields that investigate the nature, causes, mechanisms and treatments of disorders of thought, emotion, or behavior. In accord with this mission, this peer-reviewed, rapid-publication, international journal publishes both basic and clinical contributions from all disciplines and research areas relevant to the pathophysiology and treatment of major psychiatric disorders.

The journal publishes novel results of original research which represent an important new lead or significant impact on the field, particularly those addressing genetic and environmental risk factors, neural circuitry and neurochemistry, and important new therapeutic approaches. Reviews and commentaries that focus on topics of current research and interest are also encouraged.

Biological Psychiatry is one of the most selective and highly cited journals in the field of psychiatric neuroscience. It is ranked 6th out of 142 Psychiatry titles and 9th out of 261 Neurosciences titles in the Journal Citations Reports® published by Clarivate Analytics. The 2017 Impact Factor score for Biological Psychiatry is 11.982. http://www.sobp.org/journal

About Elsevier
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Media contact
Rhiannon Bugno, Editorial Office
Biological Psychiatry
+1 214 648 0880
Biol.Psych@sobp.org

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