Social reinstatement: a rat model of peer-induced relapse

Virginia G. Weiss, Justin R. Yates, Joshua S. Beckmann, Lindsey R. Hammerslag, Michael T. Bardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: An important factor that can lead to drug relapse is to re-associate with drug-using social peers, but there is little literature on the effect of social peers on relapse in animal models. Methods: The current study used a dual-compartment operant conditioning apparatus that allowed adult male rats to respond for cocaine in the presence of a conspecific. In experiment 1, rats were trained to self-administer cocaine in the presence of a social peer that was separated by a wire screen partition and then that peer was used as a reinstatement cue following a period of extinction. In the next experiments, rats were trained on alternating sessions to self-administer cocaine in the presence of one peer and to self-administer saline in the presence of a different peer using either a single-active lever procedure (experiment 2) or a double-active lever procedure (experiment 3). Following extinction of responding in the absence of the peers, the effect of re-exposure to the cocaine- and saline-associated peers on reinstatement of drug seeking was determined. This was tested using both single- and double-active lever procedures. Results: In experiment 1, a peer that was present throughout cocaine self-administration was able to reinstate cocaine seeking following a period of extinction. In experiments 2 and 3, drug seeking was reinstated by the cocaine-associated peer (S+), but not the saline-associated peer (S−). This discrimination occurred when using either the single-active lever procedure or double-active lever procedure. Conclusion: These results indicate that a social peer can be used as a discriminative stimulus to signal cocaine availability and that re-introduction of a peer previously paired with cocaine can reinstate cocaine seeking, confirming clinical reports that peer affiliation among abstinent cocaine users is an important determinant of relapse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3391-3400
Number of pages10
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Cocaine
  • Reinstatement
  • Self-administration
  • Social

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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