Oxycodone withdrawal is associated with increased cocaine self-administration and aberrant accumbens glutamate plasticity in rats

Shailesh N. Khatri, Hanaa Ulangkaya, Erin E. Maher, Safiyah Sadek, Mei Hong, Andrea M. Woodcox, William W. Stoops, Cassandra D. Gipson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD) frequently use other substances, including cocaine. Opioid withdrawal is associated with increased likelihood of cocaine use, which may represent an attempt to ameliorate opioid withdrawal effects. Clinically, 30% of co-using individuals take opioids and cocaine exclusively in a sequential manner. Preclinical studies evaluating mechanisms of drug use typically study drugs in isolation. However, polysubstance use is a highly prevalent clinical issue and thus, we established a novel preclinical model of sequential oxycodone and cocaine self-administration (SA) whereby rats acquired oxycodone and cocaine SA in an A-B-A-B design. Somatic signs of withdrawal were evaluated at 0, 22, and 24h following oxycodone SA, with the 24h timepoint representing somatic signs immediately following cocaine SA. Preclinically, aberrant glutamate signaling within the nucleus accumbens core (NAcore) occurs following use of cocaine or opioids, whereby medium spiny neurons (MSNs) rest in a potentiated or depotentiated state, respectively. Further, NAcore glial glutamate transport via GLT-1 is downregulated following SA of either drug alone. However, it is not clear if cocaine can exacerbate opioid-induced changes in glutamate signaling. In this study, NAcore GLT-1 protein and glutamate plasticity were measured (via AMPA/NMDA ratio) following SA. Rats acquired SA of both oxycodone and cocaine regardless of sex, and the acute oxycodone-induced increase in somatic signs at 22h was positively correlated with cocaine consumption during the cocaine testing phase. Cocaine use following oxycodone SA downregulated GLT-1 and reduced AMPA/NMDA ratios compared to cocaine use following food SA. Further, oxycodone SA alone was associated with reduced AMPA/NMDA ratio. Together, behavioral signs of oxycodone withdrawal may drive cocaine use and further dysregulate NAcore glutamate signaling.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109773
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health Grant DA055879 , DA044479 , DA046526 , DA058933 , and DA045881 (to CDG) and DA049130 (to WWS and CDG). All authors have no disclosures to declare.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s)


  • Cocaine
  • Glutamate plasticity
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Oxycodone
  • Self-administration
  • Withdrawal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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