Rats under stress drink more alcohol

Stress weakens the alcohol-induced dopamine response in rodents, which subsequently results in the animals willingly consuming more alcohol compared to their unstressed counterparts, according to a new study published in Neuron.

For the study, researchers measured the amount of sugar water laced with ethanol rats consumed 15 hours after being subjected to acute stress for one hour. The stressed rats drank significantly more than the control group. The increased level of alcohol consumption persisted for several weeks. Researchers then administered a chemical to reverse the weakened alcohol-induced dopamine signal, which resulted in the stressed rats consuming less alcohol.

"By chemically blocking stress hormone receptors on neurons, we prevented stress from causing increased drinking behavior," said John Dani, PhD, one of the study's authors and chair of the department of Neuroscience in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. "This line of research has implications for people with PTSD who have an increased risk for over-use of alcohol and drugs."

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