Validation of a behavioral economic purchase task for assessing drug abuse liability
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Behavioral economic purchase tasks quantify drug demand (i.e. reinforcing value of a drug) and have been used extensively to assess the value of various drugs among current users. However, purchase tasks have been rarely used with unfamiliar drugs to address a compound's abuse liability, and the current study sought to validate the paradigm in this capacity. Using a double-blind placebo-controlled within-subjects drug challenge design, the study evaluated differential drug demand on an experimental drug purchase task for a 20 mg dose of oral D-amphetamine (versus placebo), a prototypic psychostimulant, in 98 stimulant-naïve participants. Compared with placebo, amphetamine significantly increased intensity, breakpoint and Omax , and significantly decreased elasticity. Mechanistic analyses revealed that Omax and breakpoint mediated the relationship between subjective drug effects and 'willingness to take again', a putative indicator of liability via motivation for future drug-seeking behavior. These findings validate the purchase task paradigm for quantifying the reinforcing value and, in turn, abuse liability of unfamiliar compounds, providing a foundation for a variety of future applications.
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