Aim: To review briefly the methods, assumptions, models, accomplishments, drawbacks and future directions of research using drug self-administration in animals and humans.
Background: The use of drug self-administration to study addiction is based on the assumption that drugs reinforce the behavior that results in their delivery. A wide range of drug self-administration techniques have been developed to model specific aspects of addiction. These techniques are highly amenable to being combined with a wide variety of neuroscience techniques.
Conclusions: The identification of drug use as behavior that is reinforced by drugs has contributed greatly to the understanding and treatment of addiction. As part of a program of pre-clinical research that also involves screening with a variety of simpler behavioral techniques, drug self-administration procedures can provide an important last step in testing potential treatments for addiction. There is currently a concerted effort to develop self-administration procedures that model the extreme nature of the behavior engendered by addiction. As advances continue to be made in neuroscience techniques, self-administration should continue to provide a means of applying these techniques within a sophisticated and valid model of human drug addiction.