Stimulus functions of drugs and the assessment of abuse liability

Joseph V. Brady, Robert D. Hienz, Nancy A. Ator

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The development of a unifying framework for conceptualizing the commonalities in various forms of substance abuse must encompass the data base focused upon the stimulus functions of drugs. In the first instance, for example, the research on drug self‐administration has provided convincing evidence of a remarkable concordance between laboratory animals and human substance abusers in the reinforcing stimulus functions of a range of chemical agents. The recognition of these cross‐species and cross‐drug generalities has radically changed conceptualizations of substance abuse from a reactive to a more active process and has encouraged the kind of functional analysis of drug‐seeking and drug‐taking that has proven productive and useful in the study of other behavioral interactions. In this regard as well, recent refinements in the analysis of the discriminative stimulus functions of drugs have provided a more comprehensive basis for characterizing a chemical agent's spectrum of action and evaluating its abuse liability. While the correlation between the discriminative stimulus functions and the reinforcing stimulus functions is remarkably high for some drug classes, there are notable exceptions. Finally, the assessment of abuse liability requires an analysis of the eliciting stimulus functions of drugs as reflected by the physiological and behavioral changes, both acute and chronic, that follow drug administration. The methods used to evaluate both physiological dependence and behavioral toxicity in relationship to sensory and motor effects for a range of abused drugs have depended heavily upon an assessment of the eliciting stimulus functions of such compounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-249
Number of pages19
JournalDrug Development Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1990


  • behavioral toxicity
  • discriminative
  • eliciting
  • physiological dependence
  • reinforcing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery


Dive into the research topics of 'Stimulus functions of drugs and the assessment of abuse liability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this