Voluntary exercise as a treatment for incubated and expanded drug craving leading to relapse to addiction: Animal models

Marilyn E. Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Drug addiction is a chronic relapsing disorder, as more than 80% of former drug users relapse within a year after quit attempts have ended. This review examines incubated craving that develops over long periods of weeks to months after addictive drug use ends, when rats are given a small priming exposure to the formerly used drug, and a large amount of drug seeking occurs, reflecting large increases in craving over time. Expanded craving occurs when not only the recently-used drug, but other related or unrelated drugs of abuse elicit drug seeking that leads to relapse behavior, including common drugs like caffeine or nicotine, Thus, expanded craving is an increase in the conditions that elicit relapse, such as, a variety of drugs, and it persists weeks after drug use ends. Incubated and expanded craving occur with several drugs of abuse, and these forms of craving, can last for weeks to months and end in relapse. Voluntary physical exercise, blocked incubated cocaine craving, and expanded heroin craving elicited by multiple conditions was reduced in female and male rats. This review examines voluntary physical exercise as a long-term, self-initiated, and self-sustainable treatment that reduces long-term drug craving leading to relapse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number173210
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding provided by NIH/NIDA P50 DA051369.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Animal models
  • Multi-triggered relapse (MTR)
  • Treatment for incubation of drug craving
  • Voluntary exercise

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review


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