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Reversible and persistent decreases in cocaine self-administration after cholinesterase inhibition: different effects of donepezil and rivastigmine

Grasing, Kennetha,b; Yang, Yungaoc; He, Shuangtenga

doi: 10.1097/FBP.0b013e3283428cd8
Original Articles

We recently observed that pretreatment with the cholinesterase inhibitor, tacrine can produce long-lasting reductions in cocaine-reinforced behavior, described as persistent attenuation. In addition to inhibiting both acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and butyrylcholinesterase, tacrine can potentiate actions of dopamine. This study was carried out to evaluate the effects of donepezil (which selectively inhibits AChE) and rivastigmine (which inhibits both AChE and butyrylcholinesterase) on cocaine self-administration. High self-administration rats self-administered different doses of cocaine under a fixed ratio-5 schedule. Over a 4-day period, vehicle, donepezil, or rivastigmine was infused as animals were maintained in home cages (21 h per day), with signs of cholinergic stimulation (fasciculation, vacuous jaw movements, yawning, and diarrhea) scored by a blinded observer. Both compounds dose-dependently decreased cocaine self-administration, but differed in the potency and temporal pattern of their effects. Self-administration of low-dose cocaine was decreased to a greater degree by rivastigmine than donepezil (50% effective doses of 2.33 and 6.21 mg/kg/day, respectively), but this early effect did not continue beyond sessions immediately after treatment with rivastigmine. Group means for cocaine self-administration were decreased at some time points occurring between 1 and 3 days after the treatment with 10 mg/kg/day of donepezil (late effects), with decreases of more than 80% observed in some individual rats that persisted for 1 week or longer. Early, but not late, effects were correlated with signs of cholinergic stimulation. In summary, pretreatment with donepezil, but not rivastigmine produced persistent reductions in cocaine-reinforced behavior, which were not associated with signs of cholinergic stimulation.

aSubstance Abuse Research Laboratory, Kansas City Veterans Affairs Medical Center

bDivision of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Medicine, University of Kansas School of Medicine, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

cThe Institute of Combined Chinese and Western Medicine, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China

Correspondence to Kenneth Grasing, Substance Abuse Research Laboratory, 151, Kansas City VA Medical Center, 4801 Linwood Boulevard, Kansas City, MO 64128, USA e-mail:

Received April 23, 2010

Accepted October 24, 2010

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.