Sex differences in the acquisition and maintenance of cocaine and nicotine self-administration in rats

Natashia Swalve, John R. Smethells, Marilyn E. Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Rationale: Consistent sex differences are observed in human drug addiction, with females often exceeding males on drug intake. However, there is still a need for animal models for some aspects of addiction such as acquisition of drug self-administration and the subsequent development of drug-seeking. Objectives: The present study examined sex differences in the acquisition and maintenance of self-administration of two widely used stimulants, cocaine and nicotine. Methods: Male and female rats self-administered cocaine (0.4 mg/kg/infusion) or nicotine (0.03 mg/kg/infusion) daily under a fixed-ratio 1 (FR 1) schedule until acquisition criteria were met (maximum of 30 sessions). The self-administration criterion for cocaine was ≥20 infusions in a 2-h session and ≥5 infusions in a 1-h session for nicotine. Sex differences were assessed by examining the percentage of rats that met acquisition criteria, the number of sessions to meet criteria, and the number of infusions earned during the maintenance phase. Results: A significantly higher percentage of male rats acquired both cocaine and nicotine self-administration than females, and males met acquisition criteria in fewer sessions. However, after criteria were met, females self-administered more cocaine than males during the first 5 days of maintenance. There were no sex differences in nicotine infusions post-acquisition. Conclusions: Differences in acquisition amongst sexes can reveal factors that are integral to initiation of drug use, an often overlooked phase of drug addiction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1005-1013
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to Dr. Natalie Zlebnik and Heather Veglahn for their assistance with data collection. This study was supported by NIH/NIDA P50 DA033942 (MEC) and NIDA training grant T32 DA007097 (JRS; Dr. Thomas Molitor, PI).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Springer-Verlag.


  • Acquisition
  • Cocaine
  • Maintenance
  • Nicotine
  • Self-administration
  • Sex differences


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