Pharmacological Influences Upon Human Ethanol Self-Administration

  • George E. Bigelow
  • Roland R. Griffiths
  • Ira A. Liebson
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 85B)


A human experimental model of the ethanol self-administration aspect of alcoholism is described which is sensitive to pharmacological manipulations which influence alcoholics1 disposition to drink. Volunteer male alcoholics are permitted to self-administer ethanol daily under experimental conditions which prevent the wide spontaneous fluctuation of intake commonly observed in laboratory drinking situations. Drinking is stabilized by restrictions on amount of ethanol available, temporal conditions of availability, response cost and consequences of drinking. Three experiments illustrate the sensitivity of the paradigm to pharmacological factors. In Experiment I, alcoholics ingested more of the available drinks as ethanol dose per drink increased. Twelve drinks were available daily in a 6.25-hour session. Dose per drink varied between 1.86 and 11.14 g ethanol. In Experiment II, alcoholics ingested more of the available drinks when the dose was available in a higher concentration than when the same dose was available in a lower concentration. The effect was replicated at three different doses — 2.28, 5.57, and 11.14 g ethanol per drink. Twelve drinks daily were available in a 5.75-hr session and beverage concentration was varied between 1.3 and 47.5 percent ethanol by volume. In Experiment III, oral preloads of beverages containing ethanol increased the number of drinks consumed during the ensuing ethanol self-administration session. When ethanol self-administration was suppressed either by brief contingent isolation or by response cost, preloads of 77.7 g ethanol increased self-administration.


Ethanol Intake Response Cost Ethanol Dose Pharmacological Influence Human Experimental Model 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • George E. Bigelow
    • 1
    • 2
  • Roland R. Griffiths
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ira A. Liebson
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryBaltimore City HospitalsBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.The Johns HopkinsUniversity School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

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