Female and male rats readily consume and prefer oxycodone to water in a chronic, continuous access, two-bottle oral voluntary paradigm

Giulia Zanni, Matthew J. DeSalle, Hannah M. Deutsch, Gordon A. Barr, Amelia J. Eisch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The increasing abuse of opioids - such as oxycodone - poses major challenges for health and socioeconomic systems. Human prescription opioid abuse is marked by chronic, voluntary, oral intake and sex differences. To develop interventions, the field would benefit from a preclinical paradigm that similarly provides rodents with chronic, continuous, oral, voluntary and free-choice access to oxycodone. Here we show female and male rats voluntarily ingest and choose oxycodone over water and show both dependence and motivation to take oxycodone during a chronic oral voluntary, two-bottle choice, continuous access paradigm. Adult female and male Long-Evans rats were given unlimited, continuous homecage access to two bottles containing water (Control) or one bottle of water and one bottle of oxycodone dissolved in water (Experimental). Virtually all experimental rats voluntarily drank oxycodone (~10 mg/kg/day) and escalated their intake over 22 weeks. Females self-administered twice as much oxycodone by body weight (leading to higher blood levels of oxycodone) and engaged in more gnawing behavior of wooden blocks relative to males. Precipitated withdrawal revealed high levels of dependence in both sexes. Reflecting motivation to drink oxycodone, ascending concentrations of citric acid suppressed the intake of oxycodone (Experimental) and the intake of water (Control); however, Experimental rats returned to pre-citric acid preference levels whereas Controls rats did not. Pre-screening behaviors of rats on open field exploration predicted oxycodone intake. Thus, rats consumed and preferred oxycodone over time in this chronic two-bottle oral choice paradigm and both sexes displayed many features of human oxycodone abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107978
StatePublished - May 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Dependence
  • Endophenotype
  • Motivation
  • Opioid
  • Self-administration
  • Sex difference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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