Comment; Well-designed study documenting how early-life adversity is linked with future opioid addiction–it’s not only genetics, but environment as well–at least in rats. Caution does need to be exercised in over-extrapolating from rats to people, but it is something to consider…

Molecular Psychiatry (2019)Cite this article


The origins and neural bases of the current opioid addiction epidemic are unclear. Genetics plays a major role in addiction vulnerability, but cannot account for the recent exponential rise in opioid abuse, so environmental factors must contribute. Individuals with history of early life adversity (ELA) are disproportionately prone to opioid addiction, yet whether ELA interacts with factors such as increased access to opioids to directly influence brain development and function, and cause opioid addiction vulnerability, is unknown. We simulated ELA in female rats and this led to a striking opioid addiction-like phenotype. This was characterized by resistance to extinction, increased relapse-like behavior, and, as in addicted humans, major increases in opioid economic demand. By contrast, seeking of a less salient natural reward was unaffected by ELA, whereas demand for highly palatable treats was augmented. These discoveries provide novel insights into the origins and nature of reward circuit malfunction that may set the stage for addiction.

Dr. Raymond Oenbrink