Aim To review briefly the methods, assumptions, models, accomplishments, drawbacks and future directions of research using drug self-administration in animals and humans.
Background The use of drug self-administration to study addiction is based on the assumption that drugs reinforce the behavior that results in their delivery. A wide range of drug self-administration techniques have been developed to model specific aspects of addiction. These techniques are highly amenable to being combined with a wide variety of neuroscience techniques.
Conclusions The identification of drug use as behavior that is reinforced by drugs has contributed greatly to the understanding and treatment of addiction. As part of a program of pre-clinical research that also involves screening with a variety of simpler behavioral techniques, drug self-administration procedures can provide an important last step in testing potential treatments for addiction. There is currently a concerted effort to develop self-administration procedures that model the extreme nature of the behavior engendered by addiction. As advances continue to be made in neuroscience techniques, self-administration should continue to provide a means of applying these techniques within a sophisticated and valid model of human drug addiction.