Chronic adolescent exposure to methylphenidate and fluoxetine affects physiology, behavior, and cocaine prefer

Carly Connor

A Sprague-Dawley rat—the animal model used for the research project.

Undergraduate Student Project


Do you know anyone prescribed to ADHD medication or an antidepressant? Chances are you do, as they are some of the most commonly prescribed medications. However, there is surprisingly little research on the effect of taking these drugs.

I am Carly Connor, a senior majoring in Psychology, and have been working on this research project for the duration of this school year as the team leader. Myself, and other undergraduate students worked under the mentorship of Dr. Thanos. My research question was to find the effects of exposure to common prescription drugs in adolescence. In this study, I examined the physiological and behavioral effects, as well as addiction potential of Ritalin and Prozac.

These two drugs are often prescribed in combination with one another as many children have comorbid ADHD with anxiety and/or depression disorders. Using an animal model, I investigated the effects of these drugs in combination so that patients with these prescriptions can be more informed about the possible effects.


Methylphenidate is commonly prescribed to ADHD patients and is often used illicitly among college students. Fluoxetine is prescribed in addition to methylphenidate in patients with comorbid diagnoses of ADHD and depression and/or anxiety disorders. The present study assessed the effects of these drugs on physiology, behavior, and cocaine preference. Twenty adolescent male Sprague-Dawley rats were given daily oral access to either control or methylphenidate (30/60 mg/kg) and fluoxetine (20 mg/kg) for a four-week period. Compared to controls, concomitant methylphenidate and fluoxetine exposure decreased body weights, anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors, increased locomotor activity, and had no effect on fluid consumption. Additionally, drug exposure abolished the preference for cocaine in the cocaine preference test. These results show the effects of chronic adolescent exposure to common prescription drugs.

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