Chronic ethanol exposure increases voluntary home cage intake in adult male, but not female, Long–Evans rats

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Abstract

The current experiment examined the effects of 10 days of chronic intermittent ethanol (CIE) exposure on anxiety-like behavior and home cage ethanol intake using a 20% intermittent access (M, W, F) paradigm in male and female Long–Evans rats. Withdrawal from alcohol dependence contributes to relapse in humans and increases in anxiety-like behavior and voluntary ethanol consumption in preclinical models. Our laboratory has shown that 10 days of CIE exposure produces both behavioral and neurophysiological alterations associated with withdrawal in male rats; however, we have yet to examine the effects of this exposure regime on ethanol intake in females. During baseline, females consumed more ethanol than males but, unlike males, did not show escalations in intake. Rats were then exposed to CIE and were again given intermittent access to 20% ethanol. CIE males increased their intake compared to baseline, whereas air-exposed males did not. Ethanol intake in females was unaffected by CIE exposure. Notably, both sexes expressed significantly elevated withdrawal-associated anxiety-like behavior in the plus maze. Finally, rats were injected with the cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist, SR141716A (0, 1, 3, 10 mg/kg, i.p.) which reduced ethanol intake in both sexes. However, females appear to be more sensitive to lower doses of this CB1 receptor antagonist. Our results show that females consume more ethanol than males; however, they did not escalate their intake using the intermittent access paradigm. Unlike males, CIE exposure had no effect on drinking in females. It is possible that females may be less sensitive than males to ethanol-induced increases in drinking after a short CIE exposure. Lastly, our results demonstrate that males and females may have different pharmacological sensitivities to CB1 receptor blockade on ethanol intake, at least under the current conditions.

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