Steven Goldberg

Drug Discrimination Studies When a person takes a drug of abuse, it has effects that a person feels and can describe. These are termed subjective effects and they play an important role in drug abuse. People are more likely to abuse a drug that has effects they describe as pleasant than one they describe as unpleasant.

The subjective effects of drugs of abuse have been studied in humans for many years and in several different ways. Early research involved ad ministering drugs, usually morphine-like drugs, to former HEROIN addicts—who then answered questionnaires that were designed to detect and classify the subjective effects of the drug. The single-dose OPIATE questionnaire asks subjects whether they can feel the drug, to identify the drug, to describe the symptoms, and to rate how much they like it. The Addiction Research Center Inventory consists of a series of true/false statements that describe internal states that might be produced by drugs. The Profile of Mood States is a list of adjectives that can be used to describe mood. Responses to these questionnaires depend on variables such as type of drug and drug dose. Recent research has examined the subjective effects of a wider variety of drugs (including STIMULANTS and DEPRESSANTS) in both experienced and inexperienced subjects. The purpose of this research is to understand the factors that can influence a person's subjective response to drugs of abuse.

Since subjective effects require a verbal description of an internal state, they can only be studied directly in humans. Since the 1960s, however, it has become clear that animals can be trained to respond in a way that suggests they can detect the internal state produced by a drug. The behavioral paradigm is called DRUG DISCRIMINATION, and the drug effect is called a discriminative stimulus effect. Although a number of drug-discrimination paradigms have been developed, the most common is a two-lever paradigm. Here the animal is trained to press one lever after it has received a drug injection and the second lever after an injection of the drug vehicle or, in some cases, another drug. Responding on the lever that is appropriate to the injection is reinforced, usually, by a food pellet; responding on the incorrect lever is not reinforced. If this is done repeatedly over a period of several weeks, the animal learns to respond almost exclusively on the lever associated with the injection.

Although it is difficult to know what an animal feels, it seems as if the animal is telling us whether it feels the drug or not by the lever it presses. The animal can then be asked to "tell" us whether a new drug "feels" like the training drug. It will respond on the drug lever if it does and on the vehicle lever if it does not. It can also be ''asked'' whether a drug blocks the effects of the training drug. If the test drug does block the effect of the training drug, the animal will respond on the vehicle lever when given both drugs.

Drug Addiction

Drug Addiction

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