Behavioral Context

The environmental modulation of drug effects has been shown repeatedly, by using schedule-controlled responses and various types of events. These findings represent two areas of research demonstrating how drug effects are modified directly by existing environmental conditions:

(1) More remote influences can also influence drug action. In behavioral history, for example, consequences that have occurred in the distant past can significantly alter the effects of abused drugs even though no traces of that experience are apparent in current behavior.

(2) In other studies in which environmental influences helped determine the effects of an abused drug, behavioral consequences occurring under one experimental condition alter the action of drugs occurring under different conditions. In this case, the conditions that interact are relatively close in time. For example, in an experiment with monkeys, exposure to a procedure in which responses avoided the delivery of a mild electric shock completely reversed the effects of amphetamine on punished responses that had occurred in a different and adjacent context (i.e., under different stimulus conditions from the avoidance schedule and separated by only a few minutes).

Comparable results, although with different species, different schedule conditions, and different environmental events, have also been arrived at with Alcohol, cocaine, and Chlordiaze-POXIDE (Barrett, 1987). The findings show the generality of this phenomenon—that the environment is an important variable contributing to the effects of drugs on behavior. The actions of a drug at its receptor site and the transduction mechanisms that ensue can be affected by events occurring in the environment.

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