Alcohol Self-administration in Rats: Modulation by Temporal Parameters Related to Repeated Mild Social Defeat Stress

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stress, alcohol, social defeat, resident intruder, alcohol self-administration, rats


Psychiatry and Psychology


Clinical evidence often points to stress as a cause or an antecedent to the development of drinking problems. Yet, animal models of alcohol drinking have yielded inconsistent evidence for a direct contribution of stress, and many studies have shown that stress suppresses alcohol consumption. The aim of the present study was to examine alcohol reward in animals exposed to repeated, mild social stress, and to determine whether alcohol drinking changes as a function of the temporal parameters of alcohol access relative to the stressor. Male Long-Evans rats, trained to self-administer a 6% (wt/vol) alcohol solution using a sucrose-fading procedure, were exposed to five brief (5 min) episodes of contact with an aggressive male. Full contact with the resident was limited to a single episode of defeat, whereas the following four encounters occurred with the subjects behind a protective wire mesh cage. Alcohol self-administration was measured 1 week prior to stress (baseline), on each day of stress exposure, and 1 week following stress. Separate groups of animals were randomly assigned to self-administer alcohol immediately prior, immediately following, or 2 h following defeat stress. Stress preferentially increased alcohol drinking on stress-exposure days, and further elevated the amount consumed 1 week following stress. Temporal parameters of alcohol access relative to the stressor were found to be important. Average alcohol consumption was greatest for animals drinking 2 h postdefeat, whereas animals drinking immediately prior to or following the stressor did not show a significant increase in alcohol consumption. Results suggest that mild social defeat stress is sufficient to elicit increases in alcohol consumption in nonpreferring strains of rodents, provided alcohol access occurs at an optimal time interval after the social defeat experience.