Substance use disorders (SUDs) are heterogeneous and complex, making the development of translationally predictive rodent and nonhuman primate models to uncover their neurobehavioral underpinnings difficult. Neuroscience-focused outcomes have become highly prevalent, and with this, the notion that SUDs are disorders of the brain embraced as a dominant theoretical orientation to understand SUD etiology and treatment. These efforts, however, have led to few efficacious pharmacotherapies, and in some cases (as with cocaine or methamphetamine), no pharmacotherapies have translated from preclinical models for clinical use. In this theoretical commentary, we first describe the development of animal models of substance use behaviors from a historical perspective. We then define and discuss three logical fallacies including 1) circular explanation, 2) affirming the consequent, and 3) reification that can apply to developed models. We then provide three case examples in which conceptual or logical issues exist in common methods (i.e., behavioral economic demand, escalation, and reinstatement). Alternative strategies to refocus behavioral models are suggested for the field to better bridge the translational divide between animal models, the clinical condition of SUDs, and current and future regulatory pathways for intervention development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-403
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

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


  • addiction
  • animal
  • model
  • translation
  • treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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