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One problem facing animal models of intravenous drug self-administration, particularly those examining social manipulations, is that subjects must be removed from the home environment and separated from cagemates during testing. This represents a limitation of animal models because it fails to capture the complex social environments in which drug use often occur. The aim of this study was to examine intravenous cocaine self-administration in isolated and socially housed rats, with the caveat that the socially housed subjects lived together 24 h/day, including during daily self-administration sessions. As a secondary aim, the study examined the impact of a companion that also self-administered cocaine versus a companion without access to cocaine. Male rats were obtained at weaning and reared in isolated or pair-housed conditions for 6 weeks. Rats were then implanted with intravenous catheters and transferred to custom-built operant conditioning chambers that served as home cages for the remainder of the study. For some socially housed subjects, both rats had simultaneous access to cocaine; for others, only one rat of the pair had access to cocaine. Cocaine self-administration was facilitated in socially housed rats if both members of the pair had access to cocaine; however, cocaine self-administration was inhibited if only one rat of the pair had access to cocaine. These data indicate that the self-administration behavior of a peer, not merely the presence of a peer, determines whether cocaine self-administration is facilitated or inhibited by social contact.


Mark A Smith. Peer influences on drug self-administration: social facilitation and social inhibition of cocaine intake in male rats. Psychopharmacology. 2012 Nov;224(1):81-90

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PMID: 22588251

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