|Addiction Research Unit
|Department of Psychology/University at Buffalo
Use of Laboratory Animals for Biobehavioral Research
Studies conducted at the ARU use laboratory animals (i.e., rodents).
There are many misconceptions about the use of laboratory animals in biobehavioral
research. This section briefly addresses several common misconceptions
about animal research investigating the effects of addictive drugs.
Animal Housing & Care
Animals are housed in a temperature and humidity controlled enviornment.
In fact, the only facility in the building with 24-hour per day, 365-day
per year environment control is the research animal facility. (Faculty,
staff, and students are subjected to fluctuations in ambient conditions,
except when working with research animals.) These conditions are monitored
locally by research facility staff and centrally by the university's environmental
control facility. Maintenance staff are on call 24-hours per day to correct
any problems with environmental control.
Some animals self-administer drugs that can have immuno-suppressive
effects. These animals are housed in a specially designed HEPA environmental
unit that ensures removal of pathogenic agents and other particles normally
found in air. Their drinking water is specially treated to reduce the bacterial
count below that found in the local drinking water supply. This level of
care far exceeds that usually found in hospital environments.
The quality of animal care, like stress and discomfort (see below),
is a primary consideration for all investigators using animal models. It
is critically important for the integrity of the scientific studies that
the influence of these potentially confounding variables (e.g., fluctuations
in environmental conditions, food availability) are eliminated from the
Stress & Discomfort
Stress has a major influence on behavioral measures and can have an important
effect on drug-taking behavior. It is essential to the scientific merit
of the research that stress and discomfort are minimized. (Few studies
specifically investigate the effects of controlled stress on behavior.)
All surgical procedures use appropriate surgical anesthetic, and the condition
of the animal is constantly monitored. Behavioral testing is begun only
after full recovery from the surgical procedure (usually 7 to 10 days post
Morbidity from Addictive Drugs
Both cocaine and heroin produce very few deleterious effects when tested
using the conditions typically employed in this research program. The image
of a heroin addict portrayed by the media or the crack addict witnessed
on the street does not reflect the condition of laboratory animals self-administering
these drugs. There is little inherent morbidity in low to moderate dose
heroin or cocaine administration. There is, however, an important caveat.
Most intravenous self-administration studies use limited-access testing.
This involves testing the animals for a limited number of hours each day
(usually 3 to 10 hours daily) and then removing the subject from the test
apparatus and returning it to its home cage. Animals are permitted to self-administer
as much drug as they wish, but the duration of their self-administration
session is limited by the experimenter. Under limited-access testing, few
deleterious effects are seen even with chronic drug administration.
A few studies have tested animals under unlimited-access conditions.
Here, animals are permitted to self-administer a drug 24-hours per day,
7-days per week. Psychomotor stimulants such as cocaine produce a rapid
deterioration in the animal's health and a high fatality rate. For this
and other reasons, this testing schedule is seldom used.
Studies employing unlimited-access conditions have been important for
establishing the potential toxicity of some compounds such as cocaine (see
Bozarth & Wise, 1985). Humans ultimately
control their own access to addictive drugs, and the conditions of human
drug use can closely resemble that seen in unlimited-access animal studies.
Experimental animals have no choice but to abstain from drug use when removed
from the test apparatus (i.e., limited-access testing). But humans can
acquire more money for drug purchase to continue their drug-taking binge.
Many cocaine addicts consume all of their drug supply and then collapse
from exhaustion. The limited cocaine supply immediately available protects
some addicts from the toxicity inherent in continued use.
Independent Protocol Review
All studies conducted at the ARU are reviewed by the Institutional Animal
Care and Use Committee at the University at Buffalo. Externally funded
research projects are further reviewed by the granting agencies. And manuscripts
submitted for publication are reviewed by journal reviewers who evaluate
animal welfare as well as scientific merit of the submitted work. Three
independent levels of review assure the proper use and care of the research
animals used in these projects.
Current Research Projects
The ARU does not conduct toxicological screening. Although carefully designed,
well controlled studies investigating toxic effects are important, our
research focuses on the positive reinforcing (e.g., mood elevating) effects
Current research projects include:
determination of biobehavioral factors involved in changes in responsiveness
to cocaine (i.e., sensitization) and their potential impact on the rewarding
effects of cocaine; these projects investigate factors that may . . .
propell recreational cocaine use to addictive use,
modulate individual differences in vulnerability to cocaine addiction,
provide a therapeutic target for treating cocaine addiction;
comparison of the effects of prototypic addictive drugs with commonly used
medications development for cocaine and other chemical dependencies.
Americans for Medical Progress / Medical
Research vs. Animal Rights
and Rat Research Home Page
© 1997 Addiction Research Unit/University at Buffalo
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