Mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone) supports intravenous self-administration in Sprague-Dawley and Wistar rats


Correspondence to: Michael A. Taffe, Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders, The Scripps Research Institute, SP30-2400, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA. E-mail:


Recreational use of the drug 4-methylmethcathinone (mephedrone; 4-MMC) became increasingly popular in the United Kingdom in recent years, spurred in part by the fact that it was not criminalized until April 2010. Although several fatalities have been associated with consumption of 4-MMC and cautions for recreational users about its addictive potential have appeared on Internet forums, very little information about abuse liability for this drug is available. This study was conducted to determine if 4-MMC serves as a reinforcer in a traditional intravenous self-administration model. Groups of male Wistar and Sprague-Dawley rats were prepared with intravenous catheters and trained to self-administer 4-MMC in 1-hour sessions. Per-infusion doses of 0.5 and 1.0 mg/kg were consistently self-administered, resulting in greater than 80% discrimination for the drug-paired lever and mean intakes of about 2–3 mg/kg/hour. Dose-substitution studies after acquisition demonstrated that the number of responses and/or the total amount of drug self-administered varied as a function of dose. In addition, radiotelemetry devices were used to show that self-administered 4-MMC was capable of increasing locomotor activity (Wistar) and decreasing body temperature (Sprague-Dawley). Pharmacokinetic studies found that the T1/2 of 4-MMC was about 1 hour in vivo in rat plasma and 90 minutes using in vitro liver microsomal assays. This study provides evidence of stimulant-typical abuse liability for 4-MMC in the traditional pre-clinical self-administration model.