Restraint stress enhances alcohol intake in adolescent female rats but reduces alcohol intake in adolescent male and adult female rats

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Adolescents may be more sensitive to stress-induced alcohol drinking than adults, which would explain the higher prevalence of alcohol abuse and dependence in late adolescence than in adulthood. The present study analyzed the impact of restraint stress on the initiation of alcohol intake across 2 weeks of intermittent, two-bottle choice intake in male and female adolescent rats and adult female rats. Restraint stress significantly increased alcohol intake and preference in female adolescent rats but decreased alcohol intake and preference in male adolescent and female adult rats. The effects of restraint stress on alcohol intake were mitigated in adolescent females following administration of the κ opioid receptor antagonist norbinaltorphimine. Adolescent but not adult female rats that were subjected to restraint stress spent more time on the open arms of the elevated plus maze. Female adolescents exposed to stress also exhibited greater risk-taking behaviors in a concentric square field test compared with non-stressed controls. These results indicate age- and sex-related differences in the sensitivity to alcohol-stress interactions that may facilitate the initiation of alcohol use in female adolescents. The facilitatory effect of stress on alcohol intake was related to greater exploratory and risk-taking behaviors in young females after stress exposure.

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