Agmatine reduces alcohol drinking and produces antinociceptive effects in rodent models of alcohol use disorder

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Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by an escalation of drinking and the emergence of negative affective states over time. Within this framework, alcohol may be used in excessive amounts to alleviate withdrawal-related symptoms, such as hyperalgesia. Future effective therapeutics for AUD may need to exhibit the ability to reduce drinking as well as to alleviate co-morbid conditions such as pain, and to take mechanistic sex differences into consideration. Agmatine is an endogenous neuromodulator that has been previously implicated in the regulation of reward and pain processing. In the current set of studies, we examined the ability of agmatine to reduce escalated ethanol drinking in complementary models of AUD where adult male and female mice and rats were made dependent via chronic, intermittent ethanol vapor exposure (CIE). We also examined the ability of agmatine to modify thermal and mechanical sensitivity in alcohol-dependent male and female rats. Agmatine reduced alcohol drinking in a dose-dependent fashion, with somewhat greater selectivity in alcohol-dependent female mice (versus non-dependent female mice), but equivalent efficacy across male mice and both groups of male and female rats. In mice and female rats, this efficacy did not extend to sucrose drinking, indicating some selectivity for ethanol reinforcement. Female rats made dependent on alcohol demonstrated significant hyperalgesia symptoms, and agmatine produced dose-dependent antinociceptive effects across both sexes. While additional mechanistic studies into agmatine are necessary, these findings support the broad-based efficacy of agmatine to treat co-morbid excessive drinking and pain symptoms in the context of AUD.

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