Subjective responses predict d-amphetamine choice in healthy volunteers

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2021 May:204:173158. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2021.173158. Epub 2021 Mar 4.


Background: It is commonly believed that drugs, including stimulants, are used recreationally because of their ability to induce pleasurable subjective effects. However, recreational drug use sometimes occurs in the absence of positive subjective effects, suggesting that other factors contribute. Here, we examine the extent to which the direct subjective effects of amphetamine, a commonly misused stimulant, predict subsequent choice of the drug vs placebo.

Methods: Healthy adults (N = 112) participated in a five-session amphetamine choice study. On the first four sessions, participants sampled either 20 mg d-amphetamine or placebo in color-coded capsules two times each. On the fifth session, they chose which color (d-amphetamine or placebo) they preferred. We examined the choice of drug vs placebo in relation to demographic characteristics, baseline mood states, personality and subjective and cardiovascular responses to acute administration of the drug.

Results: Eighty-one participants chose amphetamine (Choosers) while 31 chose placebo (Non-choosers). Overall, amphetamine produced typical stimulant-like effects on subjective questionnaires, and it elevated heart rate and blood pressure vs placebo. Choosers reported greater positive mood, elation and stimulant-like effects following amphetamine compared to Non-choosers. The Choosers also exhibited a greater increase in systolic blood pressure, but not heart rate. The groups did not differ on demographic characteristics, mood states before drug administration or personality.

Conclusions: These findings support the idea that pleasurable subjective responses to amphetamine, including positive mood, elation, and stimulant-like effects influence behavioral choice of the drug.

Keywords: Amphetamine; Choice; Drug; Healthy volunteer; Mood; Subjective effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects
  • Arousal / drug effects
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Choice Behavior / drug effects*
  • Dextroamphetamine / administration & dosage*
  • Dextroamphetamine / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality / drug effects
  • Recreational Drug Use
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Dextroamphetamine