Demand for cocaine and food over time

Chesley J. Christensen, Alan Silberberg, Steven R. Hursh, Peter G. Roma, Anthony L. Riley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


When reinterpreted, data from Ahmed and Koob [Ahmed, S.H., Koob, G.F., Transition from moderate to excessive drug intake: Change in hedonic set point. Science 1998; 282:298-301.] show that the reinforcing strength of cocaine, an inessential good, increases with experience. However, no such effect obtains with a homeostatically regulated good such as food. The present study evaluated whether this difference could serve to distinguish abused drugs from biologically necessary goods. In Experiment 1, five rats from Christensen, Silberberg, Hursh, Huntsberry and Riley [Christensen, C.J., Silberberg, A., Hursh, S.R., Huntsberry, M.E., Riley, A.L., Essential value of cocaine and food in rats: tests of the exponential model of demand. Psychopharmacology 2008;198(2):221-229.] earned cocaine under a Fixed-Ratio 3 schedule for 7 sessions. Thereafter, in a demand procedure identical to that in Christensen et al., demand was re-assessed by measuring consumption at Fixed Ratios between 3 and 560. In Experiment 2, five different rats from Christensen et al. had their food demand curves re-determined using an identical procedure as the first. When fit with the exponential model, the second determination of cocaine demand in Experiment 1 showed greater essential value than the first, indicating that strength increased with cocaine exposure. In Experiment 2, the re-determined food demand curves showed no change from their initial determination. These results show that the strength of cocaine, but not food, increases with increased experience. Measures of time-based changes in essential value may serve as a basis for distinguishing addictive from non-addictive reinforcers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-216
Number of pages8
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Addiction
  • Behavioral economics
  • Cocaine
  • Demand
  • Exponential model of demand
  • Food
  • Lever press
  • Rats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology
  • Toxicology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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