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Mephedrone (MMC) is a relatively new recreational drug that has rapidly increased in popularity in recent years. This study explored the characteristics of intravenous MMC self-administration in the rat, with methamphetamine (METH) used as a comparator drug. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were trained to nose poke for intravenous MMC or METH in daily 2 h sessions over a 10 d acquisition period. Dose-response functions were then established under fixed- and progressive-ratio (FR and PR) schedules over three subsequent weeks of testing. Brains were analyzed ex vivo for striatal serotonin (5-HT) and dopamine (DA) levels and metabolites, while autoradiography assessed changes in the regional density of 5-HT and serotonin transporter (SERT) and DA transporter (DAT) and induction of the inflammation marker translocator protein (TSPO). Results showed that MMC was readily and vigorously self-administered via the intravenous route. Under a FR1 schedule, peak responding for MMC was obtained at 0.1 mg/kg/infusion, versus 0.01 mg/kg/infusion for METH. Break points under a PR schedule peaked at 1 mg/kg/infusion MMC versus 0.3 mg/kg/infusion for METH. Final intakes of MMC were 31.3 mg/kg/d compared to 4 mg/kg/d for METH. Rats self-administering MMC, but not METH, gained weight at a slower rate than control rats. METH, but not MMC, self-administration elevated TSPO receptor density in the nucleus accumbens and hippocampus, while MMC, but not METH, self-administration decreased striatal 5-hydroxyindolacetic acid (5-HIAA) concentrations. In summary, MMC supported high levels of self-administration, matching or exceeding those previously reported with other drugs of abuse.
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