Send to

Choose Destination
Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2019 Feb;236(2):787-798. doi: 10.1007/s00213-018-5115-1. Epub 2018 Nov 15.

Heroin versus cocaine: opposite choice as a function of context but not of drug history in the rat.

Author information

Department of Physiology and Pharmacology Vittorio Erspamer, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology Vittorio Erspamer, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.
Sussex Addiction Research and Intervention Centre (SARIC), School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Sussex, UK.
Sussex Neuroscience, University of Sussex, Sussex, UK.



Previous studies have shown that rats trained to self-administer heroin and cocaine exhibit opposite preferences, as a function of setting, when tested in a choice paradigm. Rats tested at home prefer heroin to cocaine, whereas rats tested outside the home prefer cocaine to heroin. Here, we investigated whether drug history would influence subsequent drug preference in distinct settings. Based on a theoretical model of drug-setting interaction, we predicted that regardless of drug history rats would prefer heroin at home and cocaine outside the home.


Rats with double-lumen catheters were first trained to self-administer either heroin (25 μg/kg) or cocaine (400 μg/kg) for 12 consecutive sessions. Twenty-six rats were housed in the self-administration chambers (thus, they were tested at home), whereas 30 rats lived in distinct home cages and were transferred to self-administration chambers only for the self-administration session (thus, they were tested outside the home). The rats were then allowed to choose repeatedly between heroin and cocaine within the same session for seven sessions.


Regardless of the training drug, the rats tested outside the home preferred cocaine to heroin, whereas the rats tested at home preferred heroin to cocaine. There was no correlation between drug preference and drug intake during the training phase.


Drug preferences were powerfully influenced by the setting but, quite surprisingly, not by drug history. This suggests that, under certain conditions, associative learning processes and drug-induced neuroplastic adaptations play a minor role in shaping individual preferences for one drug or the other.


Context; Drug abuse; Drug addiction; Drug choice; Drug dependence; Environment; Opiates; Opioids; Psychostimulants; Self-administration

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center