Lack of self-administration and behavioural sensitisation to morphine, but not cocaine, in mice lacking NK1 receptors
Ripley TL, Gadd CA, De Felipe C, Hunt SP, Stephens DN.
Laboratory of Experimental Psychology,
University of Sussex,
Falmer, BN1 9QG, Brighton, UK
Neuropharmacology 2002 Dec;43(8):1258-68


Mice lacking the NK1 receptor, the preferred receptor for substance P, demonstrate normal analgesic responses to morphine on the hot plate assay, but have been predicted, on the basis of conditioned place preference studies, to be insensitive to the rewarding properties of opiates. In this study, self-administration and the development and maintenance of locomotor sensitisation of both morphine and cocaine were investigated in mice that lacked the NK1 gene (NK1 knockout mice, NK1(-/-)). Both wildtype and NK1(-/-) mice learned an operant lever-press response to obtain food. When intravenous infusions of morphine (0.2 mg/kg/infusion) were substituted for the food reward, the wildtype mice initially reduced rates of lever pressing, but then increased them on the rewarded lever to obtain approx. 10 infusions per 90 min session; in contrast, NK1(-/-) mice continued to operate both the rewarded, and non-rewarded levers at low rates. Additionally, NK1(-/-) mice failed, following repeated administration, to sensitise to the locomotor stimulant effects of morphine (15 mg/kg, i.p.). These deficits were specific to opiates, since NK1(-/-) mice responding for food or cocaine self-administration (0.65 mg/kg/infusion) did not differ from wildtypes, and they showed normal behavioural sensitisation to repeated cocaine administration (10 mg/kg, i.p.). These results demonstrate that NK1 receptors are critical for the reinforcing properties of morphine, and for adaptive responses elicited by repeated opiate administration. It is postulated that substance P and the NK1 receptor may be necessary for the development of opiate, but not cocaine addiction.
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