Novel behavioral assays of spontaneous and precipitated THC withdrawal in mice

Kristen R. Trexler, Sara R. Nass, Molly S. Crowe, Joshua D. Gross, Margaret S. Jones, Austin W. McKitrick, David P. Siderovski, Steven G. Kinsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: A subset of cannabis users develop some degree of Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD). Although behavioral therapy has some success in treating CUD, many users relapse, often citing altered sleep, mood, and irritability. Preclinical animal tests of cannabinoid withdrawal focus primarily on somatic-related behaviors precipitated by a cannabinoid receptor antagonist. The goal of the present study was to develop novel cannabinoid withdrawal assays that are either antagonist-precipitated or spontaneously induced by abstinence. Methods: C57BL/6 J mice were repeatedly administered the phytocannabinoid Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC; 1, 10 or 50 mg/kg, s.c.), the synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist JWH-018 (1 mg/kg, s.c.), or vehicle (1:1:18 parts ethanol:Kolliphor EL:saline, s.c.) for 6 days. Withdrawal was precipitated with the cannabinoid receptor inverse agonist rimonabant (3 mg/kg, i.p.) or elicited via abstinence (i.e., spontaneous withdrawal), and putative stress-related behavior was scored. Classic somatic signs of cannabinoid withdrawal were also quantified. Results: Precipitated THC withdrawal significantly increased plasma corticosterone. Precipitated withdrawal from either THC or JWH-018 suppressed marble burying, increased struggling in the tail suspension test, and elicited somatic withdrawal behaviors. The monoacylglycerol lipase inhibitor JZL184 attenuated somatic precipitated withdrawal but had no effect on marble burying or struggling. Spontaneous THC or JWH-018 withdrawal-induced paw tremors, head twitches, and struggled in the tail suspension test after 24–48 h abstinence. JZL184 or THC attenuated these spontaneous withdrawal-induced behaviors. Conclusion: Outcomes from tail suspension and marble burying tests reveal that THC withdrawal is multifaceted, eliciting and suppressing behaviors in these tests, in addition to inducing well-documented somatic signs of withdrawal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-24
Number of pages11
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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

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