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Experimental Methods Used to Study Drug Addiction



Preclinical methods use laboratory animals to study drug addiction. A number of experimental procedures are used at the ARU to study the biological basis of drug addiction in laboratory animals. Several of these procedures directly or indirectly measure the reinforcing effects of drug administration. Drug reinforcement refers to the ability of some drugs to motivate the individual to engage in behaviors leading to drug administration. In colloquial language, the psychological state (e.g., mood elevation or euphoria, relief from dysphoria) produced by a drug may motivate the individual to continue taking that drug. This process is described technically as reinforcement and it is a fundamental principle in experimental psychology. Reinforcement theory has broad application in the study of both animal and human behavior. It has also been applied widely in the study of drug addiction.

The primary preclinical methods used to study drug addiction are:

  • intravenous self-administration (IVSA)
  • conditioned place preference (CPP)
  • brain stimulation reward interactions (BSR)
  • physical dependence & withdrawal tests
  • locomotor activity (LMA)

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    Clinical methods use human subjects to study drug addiction in a laboratory setting.

    The primary clinical methods used to study drug addiction are:

  • clinical questionnaires
  • choice testing
  • self-administration

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    For detailed information regarding the experimental methods used to study drug reinforcement, see Bozarth (ed., 1987), Methods of Assessing the Reinforcing Properties of Abused Drugs.


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