The science of making drug-addicted animals (2012)

Neuroscience. 2012 Jun 1;211:107-25. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.08.014.

Ahmed SH1.


Research involving animal models of drug addiction can be viewed as a sort of reverse psychiatry. Contrary to clinicians who seek to treat addicted people to become and remain abstinent, researchers seek to make drug-naïve animals addicted to a drug with known addictive properties in humans. The goals of this research are to better understand the neuroscience of drug addiction and, ultimately, to translate this knowledge into effective treatments for people with addiction. The present review will not cover the vast literature that has accumulated over the past 50 years on animal models of drug addiction. It is instead more modestly devoted to recent research spanning the past decade on drug self-administration-based models of addiction in the rat (the animal species most frequently used in the field), with a special focus on current efforts to model compulsive cocaine use as opposed to nonaddictive use. Surprisingly, it turns out that modeling compulsive cocaine use in rats is possible but more difficult than previously thought. In fact, it appears that resilience to cocaine addiction is the norm in rats. As in human cocaine users, only few individual rats would be vulnerable. This conclusion has several important implications for future research on the neuroscience of cocaine addiction and on preclinical medication development.