Clinical neuropharmacology of cocaine reinforcement: A narrative review of human laboratory self-administration studies

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3 Scopus citations


Cocaine use is an unrelenting public health concern. To inform intervention and prevention efforts, it is crucial to develop an understanding of the clinical neuropharmacology of the reinforcing effects of cocaine. The purpose of this review is to evaluate and synthesize human laboratory studies that assess pharmacological manipulations of cocaine self-administration. Forty-one peer-reviewed, human cocaine self-administration studies in which participants received a pretreatment drug were assessed. The pharmacological action and treatment regimen for all drugs reviewed were considered. Drugs that increase extracellular dopamine tend to have the most consistent effects on cocaine self-administration. The ability of nondopaminergic drugs to impact cocaine reinforcement might be related to their downstream effects on dopamine, though it is difficult to draw conclusions because pharmacologically selective compounds are not widely available for human testing. The ability of acute versus chronic drug treatment to differentially affect human cocaine self-administration was not determined because buprenorphine was the only pretreatment drug that was assessed under both acute and chronic dosing regimens. Future research directly comparing acute and chronic drug treatment and/or comparing drugs with different mechanisms of action, is needed to make more conclusive determinations about the clinical neuropharmacology of cocaine reinforcement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-441
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01DA045023; R01DA048617; R01DA052203; T32DA035200) of the National Institutes of Health. The funding agency had no role in study design, data collection or analysis, or preparation and submission of the manuscript. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior.


  • cocaine
  • humans
  • neuropharmacology
  • pretreatment
  • self-administration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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