Physical dependence increases the relative reinforcing effects of caffeine versus placebo
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Using a within-subject cross-over design, this study examined the role of physical dependence in caffeine reinforcement by experimentally manipulating physical dependence. Each subject was exposed to two chronic drug phases (300 mg/70 kg/day caffeine and placebo) for 9–12 days, with order of phases counterbalanced across subjects. On 2 separate days immediately following each of the chronic drug exposures, subjects received acute doses of either caffeine (300 mg/ 70 kg) or placebo in counterbalanced order. The reinforcing effects of these drugs were then determined by using a multiple-choice procedure in which subjects made a series of discrete choices between receiving varying amounts of money or receiving the drug again, and a choice between the two drugs. To ensure that subjects completed the form carefully, following exposure to both of the acute drug administrations, one of the subject’s previous choices from the multiple-choice form was randomly selected and the consequence of that choice was implemented. When subjects were maintained on chronic caffeine, they were willing to forfeit significantly more money and showed significant increases in typical withdrawal symptoms (e.g. fatigue, mood disturbance) after receiving placebo as compared to the other three conditions. When subjects were maintained on chronic caffeine, they also chose to receive caffeine over placebo twice as often than when they were maintained on chronic placebo. These findings provide the strongest evidence to date indicating that caffeine physical dependence increases the relative reinforcing effects of caffeine versus placebo.
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