Toward a nonhuman model of contingency management: effects of reinforcing abstinence from nicotine self-administration in rats with an alternative nondrug reinforcer

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2009 Mar;203(1):13-22. doi: 10.1007/s00213-008-1362-x. Epub 2008 Oct 23.


Rationale: Reinforcing abstinence from drug use with alternative nondrug reinforcers (e.g., contingency management) is one of the most effective interventions for drug abuse. While nonhuman studies have also shown that access to alternative nondrug reinforcers reduces drug self-administration, this effect has not been examined in nicotine self-administration models. Moreover, abstinence contingencies per se under free-operant conditions have not been examined.

Objective: The objective of this experiment was to begin development of a model of contingency management interventions by employing a differential-reinforcement-of-alternative-behavior (DRA) schedule of alternative nondrug reinforcement in rats self-administering nicotine.

Methods: Two groups of rats were trained to self-administer nicotine under a multiple schedule of nicotine and sucrose delivery. The DRA-group was then exposed to an interlocking FR3 nicotine DRA t-sec sucrose schedule. Under this schedule, nicotine continued to be available under the FR schedule while a sucrose pellet was made available contingent upon every pause in self-administration responding (DRA interval) of 40, 80, or 160 s. The FT-group was exposed to noncontingent delivery of sucrose under fixed time (FT) schedules at an average rate equal to that obtained under the DRA schedule in the DRA-group.

Results: The DRA schedule significantly reduced NSA by 73, 69, and 59% at the DRA 40, 80, and 160 s intervals, respectively, compared to baseline, while noncontingent sucrose had no significant effect. The effect of the DRA schedule was apparent throughout the NSA sessions.

Conclusions: The present assay approximates the abstinence contingencies arranged in contingency management interventions for drug abuse and provides a preliminary nonhuman model of such interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Models, Animal
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / administration & dosage*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reinforcement Schedule*
  • Self Administration
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Sucrose / administration & dosage*
  • Time Factors
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / therapy*


  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Sucrose
  • Nicotine