The Combined Effects of Methamphetamine and Alcohol on Brain Reward Function as Assessed Using Intracranial Self-Stimulation
Polysubstance abuse is far more common than single substance abuse. One of the most widely abused, yet greatly understudied combination of drugs is the simultaneous use of methamphetamine (meth) and alcohol. Because little research has been conducted on the co-abuse of meth and alcohol, it is important to study the behavioral and neural mechanisms underlying the use of both to combat addiction and come closer to finding an effective treatment of this form of drug abuse. This study uses a rodent model to attempt to identify the mechanisms underlying this co-abuse through the stimulation of the medial forebrain bundle (MFB) and thus the activation of the mesocorticolimbic pathway, the brain's pleasure circuit. First, self-stimulation thresholds (the lowest electrical current the rats are willing to respond for) were determined using a process called Discrete Trials Training. This threshold was later used as a baseline measure to reference when the rats were administered the drugs of abuse: meth and alcohol, both alone and in combination. Our overall results did not show any significant effects of combining alcohol and meth relative to the effects of either drug alone, although subject attrition may have resulted in sample sizes that were statistically underpowered. The results of this and future studies will help provide a clearer understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying the polyabuse of meth and alcohol and can potentially lead to more successfully combating and treating this addiction.