Neurobiology of addiction versus drug use driven by lack of choice.
Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 2013-08-01; 23(4): 581-587
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Research on the neurobiology of addiction often involves nonhuman animals that
are given ready access to drugs for self-administration but without other
choices. Here we argue using cocaine as an example that this standard setting may
no longer be sufficient and can even lead to the formulation of unrealistic views
about the neurobiology of addiction. Addiction as a psychiatric disorder is
defined as resulting from brain dysfunctions that affect normal choice-making,
not as an expectable response to lack of alternative choices. We encourage
neurobiologists involved in addiction research to increase animals’ choice during
drug access, preferably by supplying alternative rewarding pursuits. Only animals
that continue to take and prefer drugs despite and at the expense of other
available choices may be considered as having developed an addiction-like
behavior in comparison to those that remain able to stop drug use for other
pursuits, even after extended drug use. The systematic comparison of these two
individual behaviors should reveal new insights about the neurobiology of drug
choice and addiction. More generally, this research should also shed a unique
light on how the brain ‘chooses’ among qualitatively different kinds of pursuits.
Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.