Early ethanol consumption predicts relapse-like behavior in adolescent male rats.
Alcohol abuse disorders emerge over time with repeated consumption of ethanol, but not all ethanol drinkers develop these disorders. There are pre-existing characteristics that indicate which drinkers are most likely to abuse alcohol. Adolescence, novelty seeking, and high stress reactivity are among the characteristics of the most vulnerable individuals. In addition, an individual's response to his or her first exposure to the drug influences future consumption. We assessed an array of behavioral and hormonal characteristics in adolescent (28-day-old) male rats before exposure to ethanol, and then determined which rats were most prone to high levels of alcohol drinking.The assessments consisted of measures of anxiety (elevated plus maze), response to novelty (open field locomotion, novel object exploration), and circulating corticosterone levels after mild restraint and after the elevated plus maze task. After this test battery, the rats were placed in lickometer cages nightly (5 pm to 9 am) for evaluation of fluid consumption. Rats were first habituated to the cages with water in the lickometer bottles, and then given 10% (v/v) ethanol for 3 nights as the only available fluid. After this forced ethanol exposure, the rats were allowed to choose between 8% ethanol and water for 10 consecutive nights. After 2 nights of abstinence, the rats were again placed in the lickometer cages and given a choice between 8% ethanol and water to assess ethanol consumption in response to alcohol deprivation, a measure of relapse-like behavior.Ethanol consumption on the third day of forced consumption was significantly correlated with ethanol consumption on days 8 to 10 of the choice phase, which in turn was significantly correlated to relapse-like consumption. Preference for ethanol was also significantly correlated with early consumption. Novel object exploration, open field activity, open arm time in the elevated plus maze, initial water consumption, and circulating corticosterone levels did not significantly predict deprivation-stimulated consumption.These results suggest that consumption during early exposure to ethanol establishes a pattern leading to development of increased alcohol consumption and preference in adolescent male rats. In addition, they represent an animal model of the well-described observation that humans who consume large quantities of ethanol during early exposure are the most likely to repeat heave drinking behavior. Furthermore, early consumption is distinct from novelty seeking, anxiety, and stress hormone levels which are also thought to contribute to vulnerability to alcoholism.
Schramm-Sapyta, NL; Kingsley, MA; Rezvani, AH; Propst, K; Swartzwelder, HS; Kuhn, CM
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