Voluntary Elevated Ethanol Consumption in Adolescent Sprague-Dawley Rats: Procedural Contributors and Age-Specificity

Dominika Hosová, Linda Patia Spear
Alcohol 2019 February 21
Alcohol consumption is typically initiated during adolescence, with the incidence of binge drinking (production of blood ethanol concentrations [BECs] > 80mg/dl) peaking during this stage of development. Studies in outbred rats investigating the consequences of adolescent ethanol exposure have typically employed intragastric, vapor, or intraperitoneal administration to attain BECs in this range. While these procedures have yielded valuable data regarding the consequences of adolescent exposure, they are varyingly stressful, administer the full dose at once, and/or bypass digestion. Consequently, we have worked to develop a model of voluntary elevated ethanol consumption in outbred adolescent Sprague-Dawley males and females, building on our previous work (see Hosová & Spear, 2017). This model utilizes daily 30-minute access to 10% ethanol (v/v) in chocolate Boost® from postnatal day (P)28-41. Experiment 1 compared intake levels between (1a) animals given either ball-bearing or open-ended sipper tube tips for solution access, (1b) animals separated from their cage mate by wire mesh or isolated to a separate cage during solution access, (1c) animals given solution access with or without simultaneous access to banana-flavored sugar pellets, and (1d) animals that were either moderately food-restricted or fed ad libitum. Experiment 2 compared intake levels between animals given daily solution access and animals given access only on a "Monday-Wednesday-Friday" intermittent schedule. Experiment 3 compared adolescent and adult (P70-83) consumption using the finalized procedure as based on the results of Experiments 1 and 2. As in our previous work, consumptions well within the binge range were produced on some days, with high consumption days typically followed by several days of lower consumption before increasing again. Sipper tube type (1a) and simultaneous pellet access (1c) did not affect consumption, while intake was significantly higher in non-isolated (1b), food-restricted (1d), daily-access (2), and adolescent (3) animals. However, although ethanol intake was higher in food-restricted animals, the resulting BECs were equivalent or higher in non-restricted animals, likely due to a hepatoprotective effect of moderate food restriction. Post-consumption intoxication ratings correlated with BECs and were notably higher in adults than adolescents, despite the lower voluntary consumption levels of adults, confirming prior reports of the attenuated sensitivity of adolescents to ethanol intoxication relative to adults. The final model utilizes ball-bearing sipper tube tips to provide daily access to 10% ethanol in chocolate Boost® to free-feeding adolescent animals separated from their cage mate by wire mesh, with no food provided during solution access. This easy-to-implement model is effective in producing elevated voluntary ethanol consumption in adolescent, but not adult, Sprague-Dawley rats.

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