Author(s): Ettenberg A
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Abstract Over the past decade, data collected in our laboratory have demonstrated that self-administered cocaine produces Opponent-Process-like behavioral effects. Animals running a straight alley once each day for IV cocaine develop over trials an approach-avoidance conflict about re-entering the goal box. This conflict behavior is characterized by a stop in forward locomotion (usually at the very mouth of the goal box) followed by a turn and 'retreat' back toward the goal box. The results of a series of studies conducted over the past decade collectively suggest that the behavioral ambivalence exemplified by rats running the alley for IV cocaine stems from concurrent and opponent positive (rewarding) and negative (anxiogenic) properties of the drug--both of which are associated with the goal box. These opponent properties of cocaine have been shown to result from temporally distinct affective states. Using a conditioned place preference test, we have been able to demonstrate that while the initial immediate effects of IV cocaine are reinforcing, the state present 15 min post-injection is aversive. In our most recent work, the co-administration of IV cocaine with either oral ethanol or IV heroin was found to greatly diminish the development and occurrence of retreat behaviors in the runway. It may therefore be that the high incidence of co-abuse of cocaine with either ethanol or heroin, stems from the users' motivation to alleviate some of the negative side effects of cocaine. It would seem then that the Opponent Process Theory has provided a useful conceptual framework for the study of the behavioral consequences of self-administered cocaine including the notion that both positive and negative reinforcement mechanisms are involved in the development and maintenance of cocaine abuse.
This article was published in Neurosci Biobehav Rev
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy