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Effects of Stress and Social Enrichment on Alcohol Intake, Biological and Psychological Stress Responses in Rats

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Technical Report

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Uniformed Services University Of The Health Sciences Bethesda United States

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Addiction and drug abuse are pervasive in society, and can result in illness, legal and financial trouble, and even death for dependent users. Licit substances, including alcohol, are widely available, easily obtainable, and relatively inexpensive. More than 75 of Americans have used alcohol at least once in their lifetime, and more than half of adults are current drinkers. Unlike most other drugs, alcohol may be health-promoting in low to moderate doses. Excessive alcohol intake can cause serious immediate and long-term consequences to the drinker and to others. There is substantial anecdotal, clinical, and some experimental evidence that environmental factors, especially stress and social environment, affect alcohol self-administration. Stress often is associated with increased alcohol consumption. Social enrichment decreases drug self-administration, but there is mixed evidence regarding social enrichment and alcohol intake. These relationships lack experimental examination and the mechanisms underlying these relationships are not clear. The purpose of this research project was to examine experimentally the individual and combined effects of stress and social enrichment on alcohol self-administration in two bottle choice and operant self-administration paradigms and alcohols effects on dopaminergic and serotonergic responses in the brain nucleus accumbens, ventral tegmental area, prefrontal cortex and on psychological constructs anxiety via open field center time and depression via forced swim test in male Wistar rats. The major hypotheses were 1 stress would increase alcohol consumption and increase alcohols effects on the stress response 2 alcohol would decrease the biological and attenuate the psychological stress response and 3 social enrichment would decrease alcohol consumption, attenuate the stress response, and attenuate alcohols effects on the stress response.

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