Cocaine choice procedures in animals, humans, and treatment-seekers: Can we bridge the divide?

Scott J. Moeller, William W. Stoops

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Individuals with cocaine use disorder chronically self-administer cocaine to the detriment of other rewarding activities, a phenomenon best modeled in laboratory drug-choice procedures. These procedures can evaluate the reinforcing effects of drugs versus comparably valuable alternatives under multiple behavioral arrangements and schedules of reinforcement. However, assessing drug-choice in treatment-seeking or abstaining humans poses unique challenges: for ethical reasons, these populations typically cannot receive active drugs during research studies. Researchers have thus needed to rely on alternative approaches that approximate drug-choice behavior or assess more general forms of decision-making, but whether these alternatives have relevance to real-world drug-taking that can inform clinical trials is not well-understood. In this mini-review, we (A) summarize several important modulatory variables that influence cocaine choice in nonhuman animals and non-treatment seeking humans; (B) discuss some of the ethical considerations that could arise if treatment-seekers are enrolled in drug-choice studies; (C) consider the efficacy of alternative procedures, including non-drug-related decision-making and 'simulated' drug-choice (a choice is made, but no drug is administered) to approximate drug choice; and (D) suggest opportunities for new translational work to bridge the current divide between preclinical and clinical research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number72272
Pages (from-to)133-141
Number of pages9
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (to SJM: K01DA037452 and R21DA040046 ; to WWS: R01DA036553 , R21DA034095 , and R21DA035376 ). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The authors presented parts of this article during a symposium, chaired by Matthew L. Banks and Michael A. Nader, at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) conference in 2014.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Published by Elsevier Inc.


  • Choice behavior
  • Cocaine addiction
  • Cue reactivity
  • Decision-making
  • Delay discounting
  • Laboratory models
  • Self-administration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Cocaine choice procedures in animals, humans, and treatment-seekers: Can we bridge the divide?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this