The problem of drug abuse among pregnant women causes a major concern. The aim of the present study was to examine the adaptive consequences of long term maternal morphine exposure in offspring at different postnatal ages, and to see the possibility of compensation, as well. Pregnant rats were treated daily with morphine from the day of mating (on the first two days 5 mg/kg s.c. than 10 mg/kg) until weaning. Male offspring of dams treated with physiological saline served as control. Behavior in the elevated plus maze (EPM; anxiety) and forced swimming test (FST; depression) as well as adrenocorticotropin and corticosterone hormone levels were measured at postpartum days 23-25 and at adult age. There was only a tendency of spending less time in the open arms of the EPM in morphine treated rats at both ages, thus, the supposed anxiogenic impact of perinatal exposure with morphine needs more focused examination. In response to 5 min FST morphine exposed animals spent considerable longer time with floating and shorter time with climbing at both ages which is an expressing sign of depression-like behavior. Perinatal morphine exposure induced a hypoactivity of the stress axis (adrenocorticotropin and corticosterone elevations) to strong stimulus (FST). Our results show that perinatal morphine exposure induces long term depression-like changes. At the same time the reactivity to the stress is failed. These findings on rodents presume that the progenies of morphine users could have lifelong problems in adaptive capability and might be prone to develop psychiatric disorders.
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