Development, maintenance and temporal pattern of self-administration maintained by ecstasy (MDMA) in rats
Schenk S, Gittings D, Johnstone M, Daniela E.
School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington,
PO Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand.
Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2003 May 28


RATIONALE. +/-3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; "ecstasy") use is increasing around the globe but there is a paucity of studies examining the abuse liability of this drug. OBJECTIVES. The ability of drugs to reinforce operant responding in laboratory animals is a valid and reliable predictor of abuse potential. MDMA is self-administered by humans, but there have been few reports of reliable self-administration by drug-naive laboratory animals. The present study sought to examine the acquisition and maintenance of MDMA self-administration by laboratory rats. The influence of prior training with cocaine self-administration on the acquisition of MDMA self-administration was also examined. METHODS. MDMA self-administration (0.25-2.0 mg/kg per infusion) was examined in rats that were first trained to self-administer cocaine as well as by those that were drug-naive. The dose-dependency of MDMA self-administration and the temporal pattern of responding maintained by various doses of MDMA were examined. In some rats, self-administration of MDMA during a 24-h session was also examined. RESULTS. MDMA was self-administered by laboratory rats that were experienced with self-administration of cocaine as well as by rats that were initially drug naive. For drug naive rats, the acquisition of MDMA self-administration (1.0 mg/kg per infusion) developed gradually during daily test sessions. The latency to acquisition of self-administration was shorter in cocaine-trained rats. Self-administration was dose-dependent, extinguished when saline was substituted for MDMA and, was reinstated when MDMA was reintroduced. During a 24-h self-administration session, a high rate of responding was produced during the first hour of the test session followed by a steady and lower rate of two to four responses per hour during subsequent hours of the test. CONCLUSIONS. These results suggest that prior experience with cocaine self-administration facilitates the acquisition of MDMA self-administration. The results also suggest that MDMA has abuse liability and that increased use of the drug should raise concern of a growing and widespread potential for chronic abuse.

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