Modeling Alcohol Self-Administration in the Human Laboratory

  • Ulrich S. ZimmermannEmail author
  • Sean O’Connor
  • Vijay A. Ramchandani
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 13)


This review focuses on 27 studies employing experimental alcohol self-administration (ASA) in humans which were published between 1989 and 2010. Twelve studies enrolling healthy, non-dependent social drinkers (HSD) were aimed at evaluating physiological and behavioral determinants of alcohol-induced reward or modeling situations of increased risk to develop alcohol use disorders. The remaining 15 studies tested the effect of medications such as naltrexone, nalmefene, nicotine, mecamylamine, varenicline, gabapentin, aripiprazole, and rimonabant on ASA. The participants were either HSD or non-treatment-seeking alcoholics (NTSA). In 25 of these studies, the subjects ingested alcohol orally and reached a mean peak blood alcohol concentration (BAC) during baseline conditions between 43 and 47 mg% (0.043–0.047%). Two recent studies employed computer-assisted self-infusion of ethanol (CASE), where subjects press a button to request multiple sequential alcohol exposures intravenously instead of drinking. This method has been demonstrated to be safe and provides increased experimental control of BAC and keeps subjects blind concerning the amount already self-administered. Peak exposures in the CASE studies ranged from 60 to 80 mg% in HSD and up to 240 mg% in NTSA.


Alcohol Self-administration Human Alcohol dependence 



This work was supported by the following grants and institutions: P60 AA007611-20

U01 AA017900-01 (S.OC. and U.S.Z).

Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research, NIAAA, NIH (V.A.R).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulrich S. Zimmermann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sean O’Connor
    • 2
  • Vijay A. Ramchandani
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity Hospital, Technische Universität DresdenDresdenGermany
  2. 2.Indiana University School of MedicineIndianapolisUSA
  3. 3.Laboratory of Clinical and Translational StudiesNational Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA

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