Predicting the Abuse Liability of Entactogen-Class, New and Emerging Psychoactive Substances via Preclinical Models of Drug Self-administration

  • Shawn M. Aarde
  • Michael A. TaffeEmail author
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 32)


Animal models of drug self-administration are currently the gold standard for making predictions regarding the relative likelihood that a recreational drug substance will lead to continued use and addiction. Such models have been found to have high predictive accuracy and discriminative validity for a number of drug classes including ethanol, nicotine, opioids, and psychostimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine. Members of the entactogen class of psychostimulants (drugs that produce an “open mind state” including feelings of interpersonal closeness, intimacy and empathy) have been less frequently studied in self-administration models. The prototypical entactogen 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; “Ecstasy”) supports self-administration but not with the same consistency nor with the same efficacy as structurally related drugs amphetamine or methamphetamine. Consistent with these observations, MDMA use is more episodic in the majority of those who use it frequently. Nevertheless, substantial numbers of MDMA users will meet the criteria for substance dependence at some point in their use history. This review examines the currently available evidence from rodent self-administration studies of MDMA and two of the new and emerging psychoactive substances (NPS) that produce entactogen type neuropharmacological responses – mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone; 4MMC; “meow meow”) and methylone (3,4-methylenedioxymethcathinone). Overall, the current evidence predicts that these NPS entactogens have enhanced abuse liability compared with MDMA.


Addiction Drug abuse Empathogen Entactogen MDMA Mephedrone Methylone Self-administration 



Preparation of this review was supported in part by grants provided by the US National Institutes of Health (DA024105; DA024705) which had no further input on the content or decision to publish. The authors are grateful for the efforts of research technical staff Sophia A. Vandewater, Kevin M. Creehan, and Yanabel Grant who have assisted tremendously over the years with our efforts to understand the effects of entactogen and non-entactogen psychostimulant drugs.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders Mailcode SP30-2400The Scripps Research InstituteLa JollaUSA

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