Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2009 Nov;33(11):1893-900. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2009.01027.x. Epub 2009 Aug 10.

Intensity and duration of chronic ethanol exposure is critical for subsequent escalation of voluntary ethanol drinking in mice.

Author information

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA.



Excessive alcohol drinking continues to be an important health problem. Recent studies from our laboratory and others have demonstrated that animal models of ethanol dependence and relapse can contribute to understanding factors that contribute to excessive drinking. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that the amount and duration of ethanol exposure is critical for promoting the escalation in drinking by mice given access to ethanol in a limited access paradigm.


We used several methods of chronic intermittent ethanol exposure in male C57BL/6J mice that would vary in the amount and duration of exposure to ethanol as indicated by blood ethanol concentrations (BEC). After establishing baseline drinking in the mice using a 2 hours, 2 bottle choice drinking paradigm, each study involved alternating between periods of ethanol exposure and periods of limited access to ethanol (1 cycle) for a total of 3 cycles. In Study 1, mice were allowed extended access (16 hours) to ethanol for oral consumption or remained in the home cage. In Study 2, the ethanol exposure consisted of intragastric gavage of increasing doses of ethanol or isocaloric sucrose as the control. Study 3 compared intragastric gavage combined with pyrazole, an alcohol dehydrogenase inhibitor, with vapor inhalation of ethanol using procedures known to lead to increased drinking in mice. Finally, Study 4 was a retrospective review of several studies conducted in our laboratory using inhalation procedures. The retrospective review encompassed a range of postvapor chamber BEC values and ethanol intakes that would allow a relationship between increased drinking and BEC to be examined.


Allowing mice to drink for longer periods of time did not cause increased drinking in subsequent limited access sessions. Likewise, gastric intubation of ethanol which produced high BEC (>300 mg/dl) with or without pyrazole did not increase drinking. Only the vapor inhalation procedure, which was associated with sustained BEC above 175 mg/dl for the entire exposure period resulted in increased drinking. The retrospective study provided further evidence that sustained BEC levels above 175 mg/dl was critical to the escalation in drinking.


We found that the intensity (amount) and duration of ethanol exposure, indexed by BEC, is critical to produce increased drinking in mice. Specifically, BEC must regularly exceed 175 mg/dl for the escalation in drinking to occur. Future studies will examine neurobiological adaptations that may underlie the increased drinking behavior caused by chronic intermittent ethanol exposure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Wiley Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center