Cocaine choice procedures in animals, humans, and treatment-seekers: Can we bridge the divide?

Scott J. Moeller, William W. Stoops

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Individuals with cocaine use disorder chronically self-administer cocaine to the detriment of other rewarding activities, a phenomenon best modeled in laboratory drug-choice procedures. These procedures can evaluate the reinforcing effects of drugs versus comparably valuable alternatives under multiple behavioral arrangements and schedules of reinforcement. However, assessing drug-choice in treatment-seeking or abstaining humans poses unique challenges: for ethical reasons, these populations typically cannot receive active drugs during research studies. Researchers have thus needed to rely on alternative approaches that approximate drug-choice behavior or assess more general forms of decision-making, but whether these alternatives have relevance to real-world drug-taking that can inform clinical trials is not well-understood. In this mini-review, we (A) summarize several important modulatory variables that influence cocaine choice in nonhuman animals and non-treatment seeking humans; (B) discuss some of the ethical considerations that could arise if treatment-seekers are enrolled in drug-choice studies; (C) consider the efficacy of alternative procedures, including non-drug-related decision-making and 'simulated' drug-choice (a choice is made, but no drug is administered) to approximate drug choice; and (D) suggest opportunities for new translational work to bridge the current divide between preclinical and clinical research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number72272
Pages (from-to)133-141
Number of pages9
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2015


  • Choice behavior
  • Cocaine addiction
  • Cue reactivity
  • Decision-making
  • Delay discounting
  • Laboratory models
  • Self-administration


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