Differential access to cocaine self-administration produced two patterns of drug intake in rats. With 1 hour of access per session, drug intake remained low and stable. In contrast, with 6 hours of access, drug intake gradually escalated over days. After escalation, drug consumption was characterized by an increased early drug loading and an upward shift in the cocaine dose-response function, suggesting an increase in hedonic set point. After 1 month of abstinence, escalation of cocaine intake was reinstated to a higher level than before. These findings may provide an animal model for studying the development of excessive drug intake and the basis of addiction.