Relative Potency of Varenicline or Fluvoxamine to Reduce Responding for Ethanol Versus Food Depends on the Presence or Absence of Concurrently Earned Food
Varenicline, a nicotinic partial agonist, selectively reduces ethanol (EtOH)- versus sucrose-maintained behavior when tested in separate groups, yet like the indirect agonist fluvoxamine, this selectivity inverts when EtOH and food are concurrently available.
Here, we extend these findings by examining varenicline and fluvoxamine effects under a multiple concurrent schedule where food and EtOH are concurrently available in different components: Component 1 where the food fixed-ratio was 25 and Component 2 where the food fixed-ratio was 75. The EtOH fixed-ratio was always 5. Food-maintained responding predominated in Component 1, while EtOH-maintained responding predominated in Component 2. In a second experiment, varenicline effects were assessed under a multiple schedule where food, then EtOH, then again food were available in separate 5-minute components with fixed-ratios of 5 for each reinforcement.
In the multiple concurrent schedule, varenicline was more potent at reducing food- versus EtOH-maintained responding in both components and reduced EtOH-maintained responding more potently during Component 1 (when food was almost never earned) than in Component 2 (where food was often earned). Fluvoxamine was similarly potent at reducing food- and EtOH-maintained responding. Under the multiple schedule, varenicline, like fluvoxamine, more potently decreases EtOH- versus food-maintained responding when only food or EtOH is available in separate components.
These results demonstrate that selective effects on drug- versus alternative-maintained behavior depend on the schedule arrangement, and assays in which EtOH or an alternative is the only programmed reinforcement may overestimate the selectivity of treatments to decrease EtOH self-administration. Thus selective effects obtained under one assay may not generalize to another. Better understanding the behavioral mechanisms responsible for these results may help to guide pharmacotherapeutic development for substance use disorders.