Diazepam promotes choice of abstinence in cocaine self-administering rats

Addict Biol. 2012 Mar;17(2):378-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2011.00368.x. Epub 2011 Sep 28.


When facing a choice between cocaine and a potent, albeit inessential, non-drug alternative (i.e. water sweetened with saccharin), most cocaine self-administering rats abstain from cocaine in favor of the non-drug pursuit, regardless of the dose available and even after extended drug use. Only a minority continues to take the drug despite the opportunity of making a different choice and increasing stakes. This pattern of individual variation could suggest that the majority of rats are resilient to addiction, taking cocaine by default of other options. Only a minority would be vulnerable to addiction. This study tested the hypothesis that rats choose to refrain from cocaine self-administration because cocaine would be conflictual, having both rewarding and anxiogenic properties. Contrary to this hypothesis, however, we report here that diazepam-a broad-spectrum benzodiazepine anxiolytic-did not decrease, but instead, further increased cocaine abstinence. Interestingly, although diazepam decreased locomotion, rats adapted to this effect by spending more time near the lever associated with the preferred reward, a behavior that minimized the need for locomotion at the moment of choice. When responding for cocaine or saccharin was analyzed separately, we found that diazepam decreased responding for cocaine without affecting responding for saccharin. Finally, the abstinence-promoting effects of diazepam were also induced in cocaine-preferring rats treated chronically with diazepam. Overall, this study demonstrates that abstinence from cocaine cannot be explained away by the anxiogenic effects of cocaine, thereby reinforcing the notion of resilience to addiction. It also supports the use of benzodiazepines in the treatment of cocaine addiction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Choice Behavior / drug effects*
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Diazepam / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug-Seeking Behavior / drug effects
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Saccharin / administration & dosage
  • Self Administration
  • Sweetening Agents / administration & dosage


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Sweetening Agents
  • Saccharin
  • Cocaine
  • Diazepam