Background: Anxiety during ethanol withdrawal may be a factor in relapse to alcohol abuse and dependence. Animal models of ethanol withdrawal have typically used forced consumption of an ethanol-containing liquid diet to induce dependence. Ethanol vapor inhalation offers an advantage over liquid diet consumption in that the onset of withdrawal can be temporally controlled more precisely, allowing studies of the development of withdrawal symptoms.
Methods: The purpose of the current study was to induce ethanol dependence in mice using an inhalation procedure and to assess withdrawal anxiety symptoms behaviorally in the elevated zero maze and in the light/dark box. Male and female mice were exposed to 3 days of ethanol vapors. Anxiety-like behavior was measured on the elevated zero maze and light/dark box at multiple time points during withdrawal.
Results: Mice experiencing ethanol withdrawal demonstrated increased anxiety-like behaviors relative to control animals in both apparatuses. However, this finding was specific to the procedure used with the elevated zero maze and was strongly influenced by sex in the light/dark box.
Conclusions: Ethanol vapor inhalation appears to be a valid tool for the study of withdrawal-induced anxiety.