Assessing the abuse potential of methylphenidate
in nonhuman and human subjects: a review

Kollins SH, MacDonald EK, Rush CR.
Department of Psychiatry,
Duke University Medical Center,
Box 3431, 27710, Durham, NC, USA
Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2001 Mar; 68(3):611-27


Methylphenidate (MPH) is widely used for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children, adolescents, and adults. Methylphenidate is clearly effective for the treatment of ADHD, but there is controversy as to whether it has significant abuse potential like other psychostimulants (e.g., D-amphetamine and cocaine). In general, the drug is believed to be abused at rates much lower than those for other stimulants. The present review examines studies that investigated the behavioral pharmacological profile of methylphenidate and discusses how results from these studies address its abuse liability. Using MEDLINE search terms methylphenidate, drug discrimination, reinforcement, self-administration, subjective effects, subject-rated effects, abuse potential, and abuse liability, along with a review of the references from identified articles, 60 studies were located in which the reinforcing, discriminative-stimulus, or subjective effects of methylphenidate were directly assessed in nonhumans or humans. Forty-eight (80.0%) of the studies reviewed indicate that methylphenidate either functions in a manner similar to D-amphetamine or cocaine (e.g., functions as a reinforcer, substitutes fully in drug discrimination experiments), or produces a pattern of subjective effects suggestive of abuse potential. The results are discussed as they pertain to factors that may account for the apparent discrepancy in abuse rates between methylphenidate and other stimulants, including characterization of actual abuse rates, defining abuse and misuse, pharmacokinetic factors, and validity of abuse liability assays.
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