Adolescence is a critical period of development with robust behavioral, morphological, hormonal, and neurochemical changes including changes in brain regions implicated in the reinforcing effects of drugs such as opioids. Here we examine the preclinical and, where appropriate complementary clinical literature, for the behavioral and neurological changes induced by adolescent opioid exposure/use and their long-term consequences during adulthood. Adolescent opioid exposure results in a widened biphasic shift in reinforcement with increased impact of positive rewarding aspects during initial use and profound negative reinforcement during adulthood. Females may have enhanced vulnerability due to fast onset of antinociceptive tolerance and reduced severity of somatic withdrawal symptoms during adolescence. Overall, adolescent opioid exposure, be it legally prescribed protracted intake or illicit consumption, results in significant and prolonged consequences of increased opioid reward concomitant with reduced analgesic efficacy and exacerbated somatic withdrawal severity during opioid use/exposure in adulthood. These findings are highly relevant to physicians, parents, law makers, and the general public as adolescent opioid exposure/misuse results in heightened risk for substance use disorders.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Inc.