Orally delivered methadone as a reinforcer in rhesus monkeys

Robert B. Stewart, John Grabowski, Nian Sheng Wang, Richard A. Meisch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Methadone usually is taken orally for drug abuse treatment in humans but oral methadone self-administration by laboratory animals has not been investigated extensively. The present study examines acquisition and maintenance of oral methadone maintained responding in four adult male rhesus monkeys. Drug solution was available from one liquid delivery system and water from a second system during daily 3-h sessions. Locations of liquids were reversed each session, and liquid (0.65 ml per delivery) was delivered according to a fixed-ratio reinforcement schedule. Initially a test for the reinforcing effects of 0.00625-0.4 mg/ml methadone solutions was carried out but a consistent preference for drug over water was not seen. To establish methadone as a reinforcer, a fading procedure was used in which responding was first maintained by solutions of methadone (0.00625-0.4 mg/ml) combined with ethanol (0.0325-2.0% w/v). Subsequently, the concentration of the ethanol in the combination was gradually reduced to zero. Methadone-maintained responding (0.4 mg/ml) persisted when ethanol was no longer present. To confirm that the drug was serving as a reinforcer, the dose was varied: (a) by changing the volume delivered while the concentration was held constant and (b) by changing the concentration of the methadone while the volume per delivery was held constant. Over a wide range of doses, deliveries of concurrently available water. Orderly relationships were observed among methadone dose, response rate, and drug intake. The study of oral self-administration of opioid drugs by nonhuman primates may be useful strategy for the development and evaluation of new drug substitution or replacement therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-118
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996


  • Alcohol
  • Drug reinforcement
  • Drug self-administration
  • Ethanol
  • Fading procedure
  • Methadone
  • Opioid
  • Oral route
  • Rhesus monkeys


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