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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Scott Bowen


The opioid crisis in the United States has grown to epidemic proportions with opioid dependence among pregnant women quadrupling from 1999-2014. Opioid-dependent pregnant women are commonly given opioid maintenance therapies (e.g., buprenorphine), but the developmental and neurological effects of these drugs on offspring development are poorly understood. Our study uses a translational rodent model to characterize the developmental consequences of gestational morphine (“MS”; mimicking opioid use disorder) or buprenorphine (“BUP”; mimicking opioid maintenance therapy) exposure on exposed offspring. Female rats started BUP (1.0 mg/kg) or MS (3-6.0 mg/kg) exposure 7 days before pregnancy to represent an established user and either continued exposure until the postpartum or discontinued shortly before parturition (gestational day 19). Offspring were assessed for mortality, weight, temperature, body length, milk bands, surface righting latency, and severity of withdrawal symptoms. Our results reveal that BUP, regardless of exposure (i.e., continuous, or discontinuous), resulted in higher mortality than controls. BUP discontinuous offspring had less milk bands on PN2 and smaller body lengths on PN1 and PN2 as compared to all other groups. Both continuous and discontinuous BUP groups and the continuous MS exposure groups had decreased offspring weights on PN1 and PN2 and significantly more NOWS symptoms on PN1. Additionally, discontinuous offspring took longer to right themselves than continuous offspring. More research is needed to understand how prenatal buprenorphine exposure impacts offspring development to help avoid negative consequences in human infants prenatally exposed to this opioid maintenance drug.

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