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Keywords:

  • Conditioned place preference;
  • contextual conditioning;
  • d-amphetamine;
  • humans;
  • sensitization;
  • subjective effects

ABSTRACT

Learned associations between drugs and the places they are used are critical to the development of drug addiction. Contextual conditioning has long been studied in animals as an indirect measure of drug reward, but little is known about the process in humans. Here, we investigated de novo contextual conditioning with d-amphetamine in healthy humans (n = 34). Volunteers underwent four conditioning sessions conducted in two testing rooms with double-blind, alternating d-amphetamine (20 mg) and placebo administration. Before conditioning procedures began, they rated the two rooms to examine pre-existing preferences. One group (Paired, n = 19) always received d-amphetamine in their least preferred room and placebo in the other during conditioning sessions. Another group (Unpaired, n = 15) received d-amphetamine and placebo in both rooms. Subjective drug effects were monitored at repeated times. At a separate re-exposure test, preference ratings for the drug-associated room were increased among the Paired group only, and more subjects in the Paired than the Unpaired group switched their preference to their initially least preferred room. Also, ratings of d-amphetamine drug liking independently predicted room liking at test among the Paired group only. Further, Paired group subjects reported greater stimulation and drug craving after d-amphetamine on the second administration, relative to the first. This study supports preliminary findings that humans, like animals, develop a preference for a place associated with d-amphetamine that is related to its subjective effects. These findings also suggest that experiencing d-amphetamine in a consistent environment produces context-dependent changes in its subjective effects, including an enhanced rewarding efficacy and abuse potential.