Rationale: A high number of synthetic dissociative drugs continue to be available through online stores, leading to their misuse. Recent inclusions in this category are 4-MeO-PCP and 3-MeO-PCMo, analogs of phencyclidine. Although the dissociative effects of these drugs and their recreational use have been reported, no studies have investigated their abuse potential.

Objectives: To examine their rewarding and reinforcing effects and explore the mechanistic correlations.

Methods: We used conditioned place preference (CPP), self-administration, and locomotor sensitization tests to assess the rewarding and reinforcing effects of the drugs. We explored their mechanism of action by pretreating dopamine receptor (DR) D1 antagonist SCH23390 and DRD2 antagonist haloperidol during CPP test and investigated the effects of 4-MeO-PCP and 3-MeO-PCMo on dopamine-related proteins in the ventral tegmental area and nucleus accumbens. We also measured the levels of dopamine, phosphorylated cyclic-AMP response element-binding (p-CREB) protein, deltaFosB, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the nucleus accumbens. Additionally, we examined the effects of both drugs on brain wave activity using electroencephalography.

Results: While both 4-MeO-PCP and 3-MeO-PCMo induced CPP and self-administration, only 4-MeO-PCP elicited locomotor sensitization. SCH23390 and haloperidol inhibited the acquisition of drug CPP. 4-MeO-PCP and 3-MeO-PCMo altered the levels of tyrosine hydroxylase, DRD1, DRD2, and dopamine, as well as that of p-CREB, deltaFosB, and BDNF. All drugs increased the delta and gamma wave activity, whereas pretreatment with SCH23390 and haloperidol inhibited it.

Conclusion: Our results indicate that 4-MeO-PCP and 3-MeO-PCMo induce rewarding and reinforcing effects that are probably mediated by the mesolimbic dopamine system, suggesting an abuse liability in humans.

Abiero, A., Botanas, C. J., Custodio, R. J., Sayson, L. V., Kim, M., Lee, H. J., … & Cheong, J. H. (2020). 4-MeO-PCP and 3-MeO-PCMo, new dissociative drugs, produce rewarding and reinforcing effects through activation of mesolimbic dopamine pathway and alteration of accumbal CREB, deltaFosB, and BDNF levels. Psychopharmacology237(3), 757-772; 10.1007/s00213-019-05412-y

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