Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Self-administration behavior is maintained by the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana in squirrel monkeys


Many attempts to obtain reliable self-administration behavior by laboratory animals with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, have been unsuccessful1,2,3,4,5. Because self-administration behavior has been demonstrated in laboratory animals for almost all other psychoactive drugs abused by humans6, as well as for nicotine, the psychoactive ingredient in tobacco7, these studies would seem to indicate that marijuana has less potential for abuse. Here we show persistent intravenous self-administration behavior by monkeys for doses of THC lower than doses used in previous studies, but comparable to doses in marijuana smoke inhaled by humans.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Initial acquisition of THC self-administration behavior, and effects of varying injection dose of THC in squirrel monkeys.
Figure 2: Effects of SR141716A pretreatment on THC and cocaine self-administration behavior.


  1. 1

    Carney, J. M., Uwaydah, I. M. & Balster, R. L. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 7, 357–364 (1977).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Harris, R. T., Waters, W. & McLendon, D. Psychopharmacologia 37, 23– 29 (1974).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Kaymakcalan, S. Bull. Narc. 25, 39–47 ( 1973).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Mansbach, R. S., Nicholson, K. L., Martin, B. R. & Balster, R. L. Behav. Pharmacol. 5, 219–225 (1994).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Pickens, R., Thompson, T. & Muchow, D. C. Bayer Symposium IV: Psychic Dependence 78–86 (Springer, New York, 1973).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Young, A. M. & Herling S. in Behavioral Analysis of Drug Dependence (eds. Goldberg, S. R. & Stolerman, I.) 9– 67 (Academic, Orlando, Florida, 1986).

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Goldberg, S. R., Spealman, R. D. & Goldberg, D. M. Science 214, 573– 575 (1981).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Mantilla-Plata, B. & Harbison, R. D. Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 34, 292–300 ( 1975).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Olsen, J. L. & Davis, K. H. J. Pharm. Pharmacol. 25, 344 (1973).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Tanda, G., Pontieri, F. E. & Di Chiara, G. Science 276, 2048– 2050 (1997).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Spear, D. J., Muntaner, C., Goldberg, S. R. & Katz, J. L. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 38, 411– 416 (1991).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Agurell, S. et al. Pharmacol. Rev. 38, 21– 43 (1986).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Rinaldi-Carmona, M. et al. FEBS Lett. 350, 240– 244 (1994).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Ledent C. et al. Science 283, 401–404 (1999).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


Cocaine HCl, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and SR141716A were obtained from NIDA, NIH. We thank Godfrey Redhi for technical assistance.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Steven R. Goldberg.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Tanda, G., Munzar, P. & Goldberg, S. Self-administration behavior is maintained by the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana in squirrel monkeys. Nat Neurosci 3, 1073–1074 (2000).

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing