5 years ago

Choice between delayed food and immediate opioids in rats: treatment effects and individual differences

Charles W. Bradberry, Maria E. Secci, Charles W. Schindler, Leigh V. Panlilio



Addiction involves maladaptive choice behavior in which immediate drug effects are valued more than delayed nondrug rewards.

Objectives and methods

To model this behavior and extend our earlier work with the prescription opioid oxycodone, we allowed rats to choose between immediate intravenous delivery of the short-acting opioid remifentanil and delayed delivery of highly palatable food pellets. Treatment drugs were tested on a baseline where remifentanil was preferred over food.


Treatment with a high dose of the opioid antagonist naltrexone decreased but did not reverse the preference for remifentanil. Treatment with the serotonin 5-HT2C agonist lorcaserin decreased remifentanil and food self-administration nonselectively. Across conditions in which the alternative to delayed food was either a moderate dose of oxycodone, a moderate or high dose of remifentanil, a smaller more immediate delivery of food, or timeout with no primary reinforcement, choice was determined by both the length of the delay and the nature of the alternative option. Delayed food was discounted most steeply when the alternative was a high dose of remifentanil, which was preferred over food when food was delayed by 30 s or more. Within-subject comparisons showed no evidence for trait-like impulsivity or sensitivity to delay across these conditions.


Choice was determined more by the current contingencies of reinforcement than by innate individual differences. This finding suggests that people might develop steep delay-discounting functions because of the contingencies in their environment, and it supports the use of contingency management to enhance the relative value of delayed nondrug reinforcers.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00213-017-4726-2

DOI: 10.1007/s00213-017-4726-2

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