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Alcohol. 2001 Jun;24(2):117-28.

Oral drug self-administration: an overview of laboratory animal studies.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, 1300 Moursund, Houston, TX 77030-3497, USA.


Many abused drugs can be established as orally delivered reinforcers for rhesus monkeys and other animals. Benzodiazepines, barbiturates, opioids, psychomotor stimulants, dissociative anesthetics, and ethanol can come to serve as reinforcers when taken by mouth. The principal problems in establishing drugs as reinforcers by the oral route of administration are (1) aversive taste, (2) delay in onset of central nervous system effects, and (3) consumption of low volumes of drug solution. Strategies have been devised to successfully overcome these problems, and orally delivered drugs can be established as effective reinforcers. Reinforcing actions are demonstrated by consumption of greater volumes of drug solution than volumes of the water vehicle, and supporting evidence for reinforcing effects consists of the maintenance of behavior under intermittent schedules of reinforcement and the generation of orderly dose-response functions. This article presents an overview of studies of behavior reinforced by oral drug reinforcement. Factors that control oral drug intake include dose, schedule of reinforcement, food restriction, and alternative reinforcers. Many drugs, administered by the experimenter, can alter oral drug reinforcement. Relative reinforcing effects can be assessed by choice procedures and by persistence of behavior across increases in schedule size. In general, reinforcing effects increase directly with dose. Rhesus monkeys prefer combinations of reinforcing drugs to the component drugs. The taste of drug solutions may act as a conditioned reinforcer and a discriminative stimulus. Consequences of drug intake include tolerance and physiological dependence. Findings with orally self-administered drugs are similar to many findings with other positive reinforcers, including intravenously self-administered drugs.

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