As the opioid crisis escalates, the science behind addiction remains poorly understood. To address this need, researchers at University of Utah Health devised a system that allowed zebrafish, a small tropical fish, to self-administer doses of hydrocodone, an opioid commonly prescribed to people for pain. After one-week, the fish had increased their drug-seeking behavior, even when doing so required them to put themselves in risky conditions. Further, 48-hours after the last exposure, conditioned fish showed signs of anxiety, a hallmark of withdrawal.
Published August 25 online in the journal Behavioral Brain Research, this study offers a new approach to explore the biological pathways behind addiction and withdrawal that could lead to new therapies to treat dependence.