Maternal continuous oral oxycodone self-administration alters pup affective/social communication but not spatial learning or sensory-motor function

Giulia Zanni, Patrese A. Robinson-Drummer, Ashlee A. Dougher, Hannah M. Deutsch, Matthew J. DeSalle, David Teplitsky, Aishwarya Vemulapalli, Regina M. Sullivan, Amelia J. Eisch, Gordon A. Barr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: The broad use/misuse of prescription opioids during pregnancy has resulted in a surge of infants with Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome (NOWS). Short-term irritability and neurological complications are its hallmarks, but the long-term consequences are unknown. Methods: A newly-developed preclinical model of oxycodone self-administration enables adult female rats to drink oxycodone (∼10/mg/kg/day) before and during pregnancy, and after delivery, and to maintain normal liquid intake, titrate dosing, and avoid withdrawal. Results: Oxycodone was detected in the serum of mothers and pups. Growth parameters in dams and pups and litter mass and size were similar to controls. There were no differences in paw retraction latency to a thermal stimulus between Oxycodone and Control pups at postnatal (PN) 2 or PN14. Oxycodone and Control pups had similar motor coordination, cliff avoidance, righting time, pivoting, and olfactory spatial learning from PN3 through PN13. Separation-induced ultrasonic vocalizations at PN8 revealed higher call frequency in Oxycodone pups relative to Control pups (p<0.031; Cohen's d=1.026). Finally, Oxycodone pups displayed withdrawal behaviors (p's<0.029; Cohen's d's>0.806), and Oxycodone males only vocalized more than Control pups in the first minute of testing (p's<0.050; Cohen's d's>.866). Significant effects were corroborated by estimation plots. Conclusions: Our rat model of oral oxycodone self-administration in pregnancy shows exacerbated affect/social communication in pups in a sex-dependent manner but spared cognition and sensory-motor behaviors. This preclinical model reproduces selective aspects of human opioid use during pregnancy, enabling longitudinal analysis of how maternal oxycodone changes emotional behavior in the offspring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108628
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • NOWS
  • Oral self-administration
  • Oxycodone
  • Perinatal
  • Pregnancy
  • USV

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Maternal continuous oral oxycodone self-administration alters pup affective/social communication but not spatial learning or sensory-motor function'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this