Treatment of Drug Dependence

Operant Chambers for Self-administration Studies


Drug abuse is an enormous public health issue. In addition to assessing the abuse potential of novel drugs, the rat intravenous self-administration procedure can be used to evaluate novel treatments for drug dependence (addiction). In these experiments, rats will be trained to self-administer the drug of abuse (eg a stimulant such as cocaine or an opioid agonist such as heroin or remifentanil). Once intravenous self-administration of the abusable drug has been established, animals will be given the test compound and its effects on intravenous self-administration of the drug of abuse will be investigated. This can be shown in terms of a reduction in the number of injections or total intake of the drug of abuse using a fixed ratio schedule or by a reduction in mean breakpoint for drug reinforcement in rats on a progressive ratio schedule. Effects of the test drug on extinction of self-administration and/or reinstatement of drug-seeking behaviour can also be examined. 

For example, we have recently used fixed and progressive ratio schedules of reinforcement to show that buprenorphine significantly reduces remifentanil self-administration in rats.

Buprenorphine Significantly Reduced the Number of Injections of Remifentanil taken by Rats on a FR2 Schedule of Reinforcement

Buprenorphine Significantly Reduced the Number of Injections of Remifentanil taken by Rats on a PR Schedule of Reinforcement


Rat intravenous self-administration studies can be used to test novel drugs to treat cocaine and opioid dependence. In addition, we have recently validated a nicotine self-administration procedure in rats and can now use nicotine self-administration studies to assess novel treatments for nicotine addiction (smoking cessation). 

Other relevant assays include drug discrimination studies (to investigate whether the test drug can prevent/reduce the discriminative cue produced by the drug of abuse) and physical dependence studies (to see whether the test drug can alleviate the symptoms of drug withdrawal). 

Please contact us for further information about our models for assessing novel drugs to treat drug dependence.