Selective breeding for differential saccharin intake as an animal model of drug abuse

Marilyn E Carroll, Andrew D. Morgan, Justin J Anker, Jennifer L. Perry, Nancy K. Dess

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


A positive relationship between the consumption of sweetened dietary substances (e.g. saccharin and sucrose) and drug abuse has been reported in both the human and other animal literature. The proposed genetic contribution to this relationship has been based on evidence from behavioral, neurobiological, and linkage studies in heterogeneous and homogeneous animal populations. Initial work in several laboratories indicated that rodents that are selected for high alcohol consumption also display an increased preference for sweets compared with low alcohol-consuming animals. More recently, Sprague-Dawley rats have been selectively bred based on high saccharin (HiS) or low saccharin (LoS) consumption, and these lines represent an ideal opportunity to determine whether a reciprocal genetic relationship exists between the consumption of sweetened substances and self-administration of drugs of abuse. The purpose of this review is to examine a series of studies on the HiS and LoS rats for drug-seeking and drug-taking behavior using laboratory animal models that represent critical phases of drug abuse in humans. The data support the hypothesis that sweet consumption and drug self-administration are closely related and genetically influenced. Other characteristics of HiS and LoS rats are discussed as possible mediators of the genetic differences such as activity, impulsivity, novelty reactivity, stress, and emotionality. The interaction of sweet preference with biological variables related to drug abuse, such as age, sex, and hormonal influences, was considered, as they may be additive vulnerability factors with consumption of sweet substances. In the studies that are discussed, the HiS and LoS lines emerge as ideal addiction-prone and addiction-resistant models, respectively, with vulnerability or resilience factors that will inform prevention and treatment strategies for drug abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-460
Number of pages26
JournalBehavioural Pharmacology
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Age
  • Animal models
  • Drug abuse
  • Emotionality
  • Genetics
  • Impulsivity
  • Saccharin
  • Selective breeding
  • Sex
  • Sweet intake


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