Human abuse potential studies include multiple measures to assess the subjective effects of central nervous system-active drugs. In this retrospective analysis, measurement properties of commonly used measures were assessed, and factor analysis was conducted to identify a core battery of measures.
Measures of positive, negative and other effects, for example, bipolar “at-the-moment” Drug Liking visual analog scale (VAS), were derived for active controls and placebo from 19 studies in recreational drug users (N = 570). Distribution, placebo response, variability, convergent/discriminant validity, parameter effect sizes (eg, maximum effect [Emax], time-averaged area under the effect curve), and predictive validity were evaluated. A factor analysis was conducted with 9 studies.
Most parameters were not normally distributed. Bipolar VAS exhibited the lowest variability. Drug Liking VAS Emax was very sensitive, showed large effect sizes (>1.0), and was moderately to strongly correlated with Emax of other positive effects measures (r > 0.5), but weaker with less specific scales (eg, high, Any Effects VAS); time-averaged area under the effect curve showed higher variability and lower effect sizes. Maximum effect at any dose (EmaxD) was significantly correlated with Emax across all selected measures and showed higher effect sizes. In the overall factor analysis, factors could be categorized into positive effects/euphoria (77% of variance), negative effects (17.9%), and pharmacologic effects (5%). For predictive validity, effect sizes for Drug Liking VAS Emax/EmaxD were moderately correlated with postmarket adverse events related to abuse (R = 0.52).
A core battery of 7 subjective measures was proposed, with additional measures added based on pharmacologic effects.