Discriminative-Stimulus, Self-Reported, Performance, and Cardiovascular Effects of Atomoxetine in Methylphenidate-Trained Humans

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Atomoxetine is marketed as a nonstimulant medication indicated for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in adults. Previous laboratory research suggests that atomoxetine has limited abuse potential but that some of its behavioral effects might overlap with traditional psychomotor stimulants like methylphenidate and d-amphetamine. A drug with this profile might be useful for the treatment of stimulant dependence. The aim of this experiment was to compare the discriminative-stimulus and self-reported effects of atomoxetine with methylphenidate, d-amphetamine, and triazolam in humans who had acquired a methylphenidate (30 mg) discrimination. Six healthy subjects with a recent history of nontherapeutic stimulant use were enrolled in this outpatient study. After subjects acquired the methylphenidate discrimination, a range of doses of methylphenidate (5–30 mg), atomoxetine (15–90 mg), d-amphetamine (2.5–15 mg), triazolam (0.06–0.375 mg), and placebo were tested. To more fully characterize the behavioral effects of atomoxetine, a battery of self-reported drug-effect questionnaires, a performance task, and cardiovascular assessments were also included. Methylphenidate and d-amphetamine increased drug-appropriate responding and produced typical stimulant-like effects (e.g., increased ratings of “Active, Alert, Energetic”). Atomoxetine partially substituted for methylphenidate (i.e., 33%–50%) and produced some dose-dependent, stimulant-like, subject-rated drug effects, although the magnitude of these effects was less than d-amphetamine and methylphenidate and generally did not attain statistical significance. These data suggest that the behavioral effects of atomoxetine overlap to a small degree with psychomotor stimulants and that it has low abuse potential.

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