Background and rationale: The reinstatement model is widely used to study relapse to drug addiction. However, the model's validity is open to question.
Objective: We assess the reinstatement model in terms of criterion and construct validity.
Research highlights and conclusions: We find that the reinstatement model has adequate criterion validity in the broad sense of the term, as evidenced by the fact that reinstatement in laboratory animals is induced by conditions reported to provoke relapse in humans. The model's criterion validity in the narrower sense, as a medication screen, seems promising for relapse to heroin, nicotine, and alcohol. For relapse to cocaine, criterion validity has not yet been established primarily because clinical studies have examined medication's effects on reductions in cocaine intake rather than relapse during abstinence. The model's construct validity faces more substantial challenges and is yet to be established, but we argue that some of the criticisms of the model in this regard may have been overstated.