Sensitization and tolerance in psychostimulant self-administration

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1997 Jul;57(3):543-50. doi: 10.1016/s0091-3057(96)00447-9.


Under some conditions, stimulant preexposure sensitizes rats to the reinforcing effects of cocaine and other stimulants, whereas under other conditions exposure decreases the reinforcing efficacy of cocaine. This paper reviews the literature on the effects of stimulant preexposure on self-administration, focusing on methodological and interpretative issues. It is concluded that both sensitization and tolerance occur following stimulant preexposure but that these two effects can be dissociated temporally, with sensitization occurring during the development of drug self-administration and tolerance occurring in response to high doses of stimulants administered to experienced self-administering rats. The relative contribution of both of these effects to compulsive drug-taking is discussed, with emphasis on the development of cocaine as a reinforcer, maintenance of self-administration, and relapse to drug-taking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Tolerance*
  • Rats
  • Self Administration*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Cocaine