, Volume 104, Issue 2, pp 181–186 | Cite as

Tolerance to the analgesic, but not discriminative stimulus effects of morphine after brief social defeat in rats

  • Klaus A. Miczek
Original Investigations


One of the most prominent consequences of defeat in a social confrontation is a long-lasting tolerance-like insensitivity to the analgesic effects of opiates, even when only small short-lived changes in nociception are detectable during the acute social stress. The present experiments examined (1) which kinds of social experiences lead to morphine tolerance, (2) whether or not the morphine tolerance in defeat-experienced rats extends from the analgesic effects to the discriminative stimulus and rate-decreasing effects of morphine, and (3) how long morphine tolerance lasts after a defeat experience. After five brief social confrontations including attack and threat by a resident rat leading to submission or defeat of the intruder, the latter exhibits marked tolerance to the analgesic effects of morphine, but not to the discriminative stimulus or behaviorally suppressive effects. Changes in social housing did not alter morphine's behavioral effects. Tolerance to the analgesic morphine effects was detected for 2 months after the defeat experience, whereas the discriminative stimulus and rate-decreasing effects were closely similar to those before defeat. This pattern was seen in animals for whom discriminative stimulus training with morphine was suspended after defeat as well as in those for whom it continued. In additional defeated and non-defeated animals, morphine's effects on the acoustic startle reflex was assessed. In contrast to the tail flick reflex to a noxious heat stimulus, the acoustic startle response remained unaffected by defeat experience or by morphine (up to 30 mg/kg). The long-lasting and large degree of tolerance after brief social defeat experiences appears to be limited to the analgesic effects of morphine. Whether or not endogenous opioid peptide activity during the actual defeat may substitute for the morphine stimulus remains to be established.

Key words

Opiates Tolerance Aggression Defeat Pain Analgesia Reinforcement schedules Drug discrimination Startle 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Klaus A. Miczek
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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