Ethanol-Maintained Responding of Rats is More Resistant to Change in a Context with Added Non-Drug Reinforcement

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Behavioural Pharmacology






Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins

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Alternative non-drug reinforcers reliably decrease drug-maintained responding in self-administration procedures. Studies of the resistance to change of food-maintained behavior, however, have found that responding in the presence of a stimulus associated with an alternative reinforcer is more resistant to disruption. This increase in persistence occurs despite lower response rates when the alternative reinforcer is present. The present experiment examined if, in addition to decreasing response rates, an alternative non-drug reinforcer also increases the persistence of drug-maintained responding. Rats self-administered oral ethanol in a multiple schedule of reinforcement in which responding was reinforced in two components signaled by different stimuli. In one component, response-independent food was delivered in addition to the earned ethanol. The effects of the alternative food reinforcer on response rates and resistance to extinction in the two components were examined. As in previous experiments on the resistance to change of food-maintained operant behavior, response rates were lower, but more resistant to extinction in the presence of the stimulus associated with the alternative reinforcer. These findings suggest that all the reinforcers obtained in a context in which drugs are consumed may contribute to the persistence of drug seeking in that context. This increase in persistence may occur even if the alternative reinforcers interfere with drug seeking.