The effect of voluntary binge caffeine and ethanol co-exposure on neurobehavioral sensitivity to cocaine in male C57BL/6J mice

American English
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Department of Psychology
Purdue University
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Recently, the co-consumption of highly caffeinated energy drinks and alcohol has become a public health concern. Consumption of these beverages has been linked to a wide variety negative consequences including alcohol poisoning, driving under the influence, physical harm, and sexual violence. The more protracted consequences of caffeinated alcohol consumption have received very little attention, however. Some evidence suggests that individuals that frequently consume energy drinks mixed with alcohol are more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder. Interestingly, both caffeine and alcohol use alone have been linked to polydrug abuse. It is therefore of interest whether combined caffeine and alcohol consumption may pose an additive risk for substance abuse. Given that both compounds can positively influence dopamine signaling in mesolimbocortical reward circuitry via different mechanisms, this is an important question to address. Psychostimulants, such as cocaine, are of particular interest considering the significant involvement of dopamine in their effects. The current project explored this possibility employing an established mouse model of binge caffeine and alcohol co-consumption. Male C57BL/6J mice underwent 14 days of daily, 2hr limited access to water, alcohol, caffeine, or combined caffeine and alcohol. Water was freely available after these sessions.
In Experiment 1, mice underwent an 11-day locomotor sensitization protocol for cocaine initiating on day 15. Locomotor sensitization has been associated with a greater propensity to self-administer psychostimulants in rodents. Mice were subjected to injections of cocaine (5 or 10 mg/kg; i.p.) or saline every other day, with 15 minute activity monitoring until day 25. In Experiment 2, a separate group of mice underwent an identical drinking procedure. A conditioned place preference (CPP) protocol commenced on day 15. CPP assesses the conditioned rewarding effects of cues associated with drugs of abuse. On day 15, mice received saline injections and were immediately placed onto a neutral floor texture (paper) in the place conditioning box for 15 minutes in order to habituate the animals to the apparatus and injection procedure. Starting on day 16, mice received daily alternating systemic injections of cocaine (1 or 5 mg/kg; i.p.) and saline or saline throughout (naïve controls) and were placed onto one of two particular tactile floor cues: a metal floor with holes punched out or a grid floor made of metal rods. Mice were exposed to the other injection/floor pairing on the alternate days. Mice were placed into these activity monitors for 15 minute conditioning sessions. These sessions alternated drug and vehicle over the course of 8 days so that a total of 4 drug and 4 saline injections were given. The first place preference test occurred on day 24 wherein all mice were injected with saline and offered access to both floor textures. On day 25, mice were returned to the conditioning protocol for another 8 days and a second CPP test on day 33. The results of Experiment 1 suggested that prior caffeine consumption, irrespective of the presence of ethanol, enhanced the initial psychomotor stimulating effect of 10 mg/kg cocaine. However, prior fluid consumption history did not influence the capacity to develop locomotor sensitization. The results of Experiment 2 indicate that prior caffeine and/or ethanol consumption had no influence on the development or expression of CPP for 1 mg/kg or 5 mg/kg cocaine. Collectively, these results suggest that a history of caffeine consumption may increase the stimulant response to a moderate dose of cocaine, perhaps indicating cross-sensitization. Although the conditioned rewarding effects of cocaine were not altered by prior caffeine and/or ethanol consumption, an enhanced stimulant response may be indicative of enhanced cocaine abuse potential. This study demonstrates that moderate caffeine consumption may influence an individual’s early interactions with cocaine which may eventually influence the likelihood of later problematic use.

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
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