Conditioned Effects Of Drugs

In addition to studies described previously showing that tolerance to the effects of a drug, as well as lethality, can depend on respondent-conditioning phenomena, a number of additional studies have demonstrated the conditioning of Withdrawal and other responses that are typically associated only with the presentation or removal of the drug. For example, by pairing a tone stimulus with the administration of nalorphine, an opioid antagonist that precipitates withdrawal signs or the abstinence syndrome (agitation, excessive salivation, and emesis) in morphine-dependent subjects, it was possible to show in rhesus monkeys that the tone acquired the ability to elicit withdrawal responses when presented in the absence of natorphine (Goldberg & Schuster, 1967; 1970). Striking illustrations of similar conditioned withdrawal responses in Heroin addicts, as well as Craving, in which environmental stimuli trigger the disposition to self-administer the drug, also have been described. These behavioral responses to stimuli that have been previously associated with drug withdrawal or administration often occur after a prolonged period of time spent without drugs (O'Brien, 1976).

In some cases, drugs also acquire stimulus control over behavior in a procedure known as state-dependent learning. This procedure is different in some ways from that used to study drugs as discriminative stimuli. State-dependent learning refers to the finding that subjects exposed to a particular procedure when injected with a drug often are impaired upon reexposure to that condition if the drug is not present. Thus, the drug can be viewed as part of the original context in which a response was learned. One concern that stems from the finding that behavior learned during a drug-related condition is impaired in the absence of the drug is that of the potentially enduring problems related to frequent abuse of drugs during adolescence—a period often associated with major developmental and cognitive growth.

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