Prenatal administration of methadone in the rat increases offspring acoustic startle amplitude at age 3 weeks

Donald E. Hutchings, Ann C. Zmitrovich, Stephen C. Brake, Sarah H. Church, Daniel Malowany

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Two doses of methadone were administered by osmotic minipump from Day 8 of gestation through parturition, a dosing technique previously shown to produce physical dependence in the dams. A pair-fed control group received saline via minipump and was allowed to eat and drink only the amount consumed by the high dose group on the same gestation days. A nontreated control group was left undisturbed during pregnancy. All treated and control litters were fostered at birth to untreated dams. The effects of methadone on maternal and offspring toxicity replicated our previous findings. At 21-23 days of age, acoustic startle amplitude was measured for each treated and control animal. Because prenatal methadone exposure resulted in reduced body weight at the time of testing, it was necessary to analyze startle amplitude using weight as a covariate. This analysis showed that the methadone treated offspring had a significantly enhanced mean startle amplitude compared with the controls. These findings support the hypothesis derived from our earlier research that prenatal exposure to methadone produces a prolonged state of CNS hyperexcitability similar to clinical descriptions of human infants undergoing opiate abstinence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-164
Number of pages8
JournalNeurotoxicology and Teratology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Acoustic startle
  • Methadone
  • Opioid abstinence
  • Osmotic minipump
  • Prenatal
  • Rat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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