Few studies have investigated the relationship between early onset of alcohol drinking and relapse in adulthood, which may be larger in females, as revealed by studies using rats as subjects. The present study assesses the alcohol deprivation effect (ADE) in adult rats of both sexes that began alcohol consumption during preadolescence or adolescence. Female and male Wistar rats received free-choice access to water, 5, 10 and 20% (v/v) ethanol solutions during the ethanol exposures. The effects of age and sex on ADE in adult rats were assessed after repeated periods of abstinence. The results showed that female but not male rats increased ethanol intake after the second and third deprivation (showing ADE), irrespective of the onset-age of alcohol drinking.