Stress in adolescence and drugs of abuse in rodent models: role of dopamine, CRF, and HPA axis (2014)

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2014 Apr;231(8):1557-80. doi: 10.1007/s00213-013-3369-1.

Burke AR1, Miczek KA.



Research on adolescence and drug abuse increased substantially in the past decade. However, drug-addiction-related behaviors following stressful experiences during adolescence are less studied. We focus on rodent models of adolescent stress cross-sensitization to drugs of abuse.


Review the ontogeny of behavior, dopamine, corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in adolescent rodents. We evaluate evidence that stressful experiences during adolescence engender hypersensitivity to drugs of abuse and offer potential neural mechanisms.


Much evidence suggests that final maturation of behavior, dopamine systems, and HPA axis occurs during adolescence. Stress during adolescence increases amphetamine- and ethanol-stimulated locomotion, preference, and self-administration under many conditions. The influence of adolescent stress on subsequent cocaine- and nicotine-stimulated locomotion and preference is less clear. The type of adolescent stress, temporal interval between stress and testing, species, sex, and the drug tested are key methodological determinants for successful cross-sensitization procedures. The sensitization of the mesolimbic dopamine system is proposed to underlie stress cross-sensitization to drugs of abuse in both adolescents and adults through modulation by CRF. Reduced levels of mesocortical dopamine appear to be a unique consequence of social stress during adolescence. Adolescent stress may reduce the final maturation of cortical dopamine through D2 dopamine receptor regulation of dopamine synthesis or glucocorticoid-facilitated pruning of cortical dopamine fibers. Certain rodent models of adolescent adversity are useful for determining neural mechanisms underlying the cross-sensitization to drugs of abuse.