Opioid abuse is a major problem around the world. Identifying environmental factors that contribute to opioid abuse and addiction is necessary for decreasing this epidemic. In rodents, environmental enrichment protects against the development of low dose stimulant self-administration, but studies examining the effect of enrichment and isolation (compared to standard housing) on the development of intravenous opioid self-administration have not been conducted. The present study investigated the role of environmental enrichment on self-administration of the short-acting μ-opioid remifentanil.


Rats were raised in an enriched condition (Enr), standard condition (Std), or isolated condition (Iso) beginning at 21 days of age and were trained to lever press for 1 or 3 μg/kg/infusion remifentanil in young adulthood. Acquisition of self-administration and responding during increasing fixed ratio requirements were assessed, and a dose-response curve was generated.


In all phases, Enr rats lever pressed significantly less than Std and Iso rats, with Enr rats pressing between 9 and 40% the amount of Iso rats. Enr rats did not acquire remifentanil self-administration when trained with 1 μg/kg/infusion, did not increase responding over increasing FR when trained at either dose, and their dose-response curves were flattened compared to Std and Iso rats. When expressed as economic demand curves, Enr rats displayed a decrease in both essential value (higher α) and reinforcer intensity (Q0) compared to Std and Iso rats at the 1 μg/kg/infusion training dose.


Environmental enrichment reduced remifentanil intake, suggesting that social and environmental novelty may protect against opioid abuse.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in Psychopharmacology, v. 234, issue 23-24, p. 3499-3506.

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

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This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Psychopharmacology. The final authenticated version is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-017-4734-2.

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Funding Information

This work was funded by NIH: DA012964, DA016176, DA035200, DA036291, and DA033373.