Binge alcohol consumption is a rising concern in the United States, especially among adolescents. During this developmental period alcohol use is usually initiated and has been shown to cause detrimental effects on brain structure and function as well as cognitive/behavioral impairments in rats. Binge models, where animals are repeatedly administered high doses of ethanol typically over a period of three or four days cause these effects. There has been little work conducted aimed at investigating the long-term behavioral consequences of repeated binge administration during adolescence on later ethanol-induced behavior in young adulthood and adulthood. The repeated four-day binge model may serve as a good approximate for patterns of human adolescent alcohol consumption as this is similar to a "bender" in human alcoholics. The present set of experiments examined the dose-response and sex-related differences induced by repeated binge ethanol administration during adolescence on sweetened ethanol (Experiment 1) or saccharin (Experiment 2) intake in young adulthood. In both experiments, on postnatal days (PND) 28-31, PND 35-38 and PND 42-45, ethanol (1.5, 3.0 or 5.0 g/kg) or water was administered intragastrically to adolescent rats. Rats underwent abstinence from PND 46-59. Subsequently, in young adulthood, ethanol and saccharin intake were assessed. Exposure to any dose of ethanol during adolescence significantly enhanced ethanol intake in adulthood. However, while female rats had higher overall g/kg intake, males appear to be more vulnerable to the impact of adolescent ethanol exposure on subsequently increased ethanol intake in young adulthood. Exposure to ethanol during adolescence did not alter saccharin consumption in young adulthood in male or female rats. Considering that adolescence is the developmental period in which ethanol experimentation and consumption is usually initiated, the present set of experiments demonstrate the importance of elucidating the impact of early binge-pattern ethanol exposure on the subsequent predisposition to drink later in life.
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