Acute glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist liraglutide prevents cue-, stress-, and drug-induced heroin-seeking in rats

Joaquin E. Douton, Nikhil K. Acharya, Brooke Stoltzfus, Dongxiao Sun, Patricia S. Grigson, Jennifer E. Nyland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Substance use disorder is challenging to treat due to its relapsing nature. In the last decade, opioid use disorder has been a threat to public health, being declared an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is a tragic situation, considering there currently are only three effective, yet not ideal, treatments to prevent relapse to opioids. Recent research has shown that hormones that modulate hunger and satiety also can modulate motivated behavior for drugs of abuse. For example, the short-acting analog of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), an incretin hormone that regulates homeostatic feeding, has been shown to reduce responding for rewarding stimuli such as food, cocaine, heroin, and nicotine when administered over several days or weeks. This may serve as an effective adjuvant during treatment; however, whether it would be effective when used acutely to bridge a patient between cessation of use and onset of medication for the treatment of an opioid addiction is unknown. Here, we tested the acute effects of the longer acting GLP-1 analog, liraglutide, on heroin-seeking. In rats with heroin self-administration experience, we found that subcutaneous administration of an acute dose of 0.3-mg/kg liraglutide was effective in preventing drug-seeking after exposure to three major precipitators: drug-associated cues, stress (yohimbine-induced), and the drug itself. Finally, we confirmed that the reduction in drug-seeking is not due to a locomotor impairment, as liraglutide did not significantly alter performance in a rotarod test. As such, acute use of GLP-1 analogs may serve as a new and effective nonopioid bridge to treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-378
Number of pages15
JournalBehavioural Pharmacology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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