Cocaine addiction is a devastating public health epidemic that continues to grow. Studies focused on identify-ing biological factors influencing cocaine craving and relapse vulnerability are necessary to promote abstinence in recovering drug users. Sex and ovarian hormones are known to influence cocaine addiction liability and relapse vulnerability in both humans and rodents. Previous studies have investigated sex differences in the time-dependent intensification or “incubation” of cue-induced cocaine craving that occurs during withdrawal from extended-access cocaine self-administration and have identified changes across the rat repro-ductive cycle (estrous cycle). Female rats in the estrus stage of the cycle (Estrus Females), the phase during which ovulation occurs, show an increase in the magnitude of incubated cue-induced cocaine craving com-pared with females in all other phases of the estrous cycle (Non-Estrus Females). Here we extend these findings by assessing incubated craving across the estrous cycle during earlier withdrawal periods (withdrawal day 1 and 15) and later withdrawal periods (withdrawal day 48). We found that this increase in the magnitude of incubated craving during estrus (Estrus Females) is present on withdrawal day 15, but not on withdrawal day 1, and further increases by withdrawal day 48. No difference in the magnitude of incubated craving was observed between Males and Non-Estrus Females. Our data indicate that the effects of hormonal fluctuations on cue-induced cocaine craving intensify during the first month and a half of withdrawal, showing an interac-tion among abstinence length, estrous cycle fluctuations, and cocaine craving.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes