Background: Investigations of oral ethanol self-administration in nonhuman primates have revealed important parallels with human alcohol use and abuse, yet many fundamental questions concerning the individual risk to, and the biological basis of, excessive ethanol consumption remain unanswered. Moreover, many conditions of access to ethanol in nonhuman primate research are largely unexplored. This set of experiments extends within- and across-session exposure to ethanol to more fully characterize individual differences in oral ethanol self-administration.
Methods: Eight male and eight female adult cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) were exposed to daily oral ethanol self-administration sessions for approximately 9 months. During the first 3 months, a fixed-time (FT) schedule of food delivery was used to induce the consumption of an allotted dose of ethanol in 16-hr sessions. Subsequently, the FT schedule was suspended, and ethanol was available ad libitum for 6 months in 16- or 22-hr sessions.
Results: Cynomolgus monkeys varied greatly in their propensity to self-administer ethanol, with sex and individual differences apparent within 10 days of ethanol exposure. Over the last 3 months of ethanol access, individual average ethanol intakes ranged from 0.6 to 4.0 g/kg/day, resulting in blood ethanol concentrations from 5 to 235 mg/dl. Males drank approximately 1.5-fold more than females. In addition, heavy-, moderate-, and light-drinking phenotypes were identified by using daily ethanol intake and the percentage of daily calories obtained from ethanol as criteria.
Conclusions: Cynomolgus monkeys displayed a wide intersubject range of oral ethanol self-administration with a procedure that used a uniform and prolonged induction that restricted early exposure to ethanol and subsequently allowed unlimited access to ethanol. There were sex and stable individual differences in the propensity of monkeys to consume ethanol, indicating that this species will be important in characterizing risk factors associated with heavy-drinking phenotypes.