Background: Adolescent alcohol use may contribute to long-term changes in the receptors and neuroactive steroids that may mediate its effects and to subsequent alcohol abuse and dependence as an adult. Therefore, in this study, ethanol preference and intake as an adult were examined after adolescent ethanol or saline administration. In addition, ethanol intake in the same groups was examined after administration of 2 neuroactive steroids with modulatory effects at GABA(A) receptors.
Methods: Two groups of male Long-Evans rats were administered 15 intraperitoneal (i.p.) injections of either ethanol (2 g/kg, 20% v/v) or saline between postnatal days 35 and 63. Starting on postnatal day 75, both groups were trained to consume 10% ethanol using a saccharin-fading procedure, and ethanol intake and preference were measured after a series of manipulations involving food deprivation, changes in the duration of access to ethanol, and changes in the concentrations of ethanol presented. Following these manipulations, pregnanolone (1 to 10 mg/kg) and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA, 1 to 100 mg/kg) were administered prior to preference sessions with an 18% ethanol solution.
Results: Adult ethanol preference and intake did not differ significantly in subjects treated with either saline or ethanol as adolescents during training, the substitution of other ethanol concentrations (3.2 to 32%), ad-lib feeding, or moderate food deprivation. Pregnanolone administration altered the intake of both adolescent-treated groups after the first injection of 3.2 mg/kg and after repeated injections with 10 mg/kg, a dose that produced sedation. In contrast, multiple doses of DHEA consistently decreased intake of an 18% ethanol concentration in both groups after repeated injections and 3 doses of DHEA (10, 32, and 56 mg/kg) administered with various ethanol concentrations dose-dependently shifted the ethanol-concentration curves for the volume and dosage of ethanol consumed downward.
Conclusions: These results indicate that chronic intermittent ethanol (CIE) administration of 2 g/kg during adolescence did not alter preference or overall consumption of ethanol in outbred rats trained to drink ethanol as an adult under the conditions tested, and that DHEA may be more effective than pregnanolone at significantly decreasing ethanol consumption.