What makes this area of research so exciting are the striking similarities between the classification of drugs by humans, based on their subjective effects, to those by animals, based on their discriminative stimulus effects. Therefore, this animal model can be used to investigate the influence of factors such as genetics, drug history, and behavioral history— factors that cannot be easily controlled in human subjects—on the subjective effects of drugs. It also allows us to predict whether a new drug is likely to have subjective effects, like a known drug of abuse, or is likely to block the subjective effects of the drug of abuse, without giving the drug to humans. If an animal is trained to discriminate a drug of abuse and presses the drug lever when given the new drug, then it is highly likely that the new drug will have subjective effects in humans similar to those of the drug of abuse. Its availability might then be restricted. If the animal responds on the vehicle lever when given the combination of the new drug and the drug of abuse, the new drug may block the subjective effects of the drug of abuse. Such a drug might then be useful for treating drug abuse.

(SEE ALSO: Abuse Liability of Drugs; Drug Types; Sensation and Perception)


Colpaert, F. C. (1986). Drug discrimination: Behavioral, pharmacological, and molecular mechanisms of discriminative drug effects. In Behavioral analysis of drug dependence. Orlando, FL: Academic. Colpaert, F. C., & Balster, R. L. (1988). Transduction mechanisms of drug stimuli. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

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