Persistent escalation of alcohol drinking in C57BL/6J mice with intermittent access to 20% ethanol

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2011 Nov;35(11):1938-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01545.x. Epub 2011 Jun 1.


Background: Intermittent access (IA) to drugs of abuse, as opposed to continuous access, is hypothesized to induce a kindling-type transition from moderate to escalated use, leading to dependence. Intermittent 24-hour cycles of ethanol access and deprivation can generate high levels of voluntary ethanol drinking in rats.

Methods: The current study uses C57BL/6J mice (B6) in an IA to 20% ethanol protocol to escalate ethanol drinking levels. Adult male and female B6 mice were given IA to 20% ethanol on alternating days of the week with water available ad libitum. Ethanol consumption during the initial 2 hours of access was compared with a short-term, limited access "binge" drinking procedure, similar to drinking-in-the-dark (DID). B6 mice were also assessed for ethanol dependence with handling-induced convulsion, a reliable measure of withdrawal severity.

Results: After 3 weeks, male mice given IA to ethanol achieved high stable levels of ethanol drinking in excess of 20 g/kg/24 h, reaching above 100 mg/dl blood ethanol concentrations, and showed a significantly higher ethanol preference than mice given continuous access to ethanol. Also, mice given IA drank about twice as much as DID mice in the initial 2-hour access period. B6 mice that underwent the IA protocol for longer periods of time displayed more severe signs of alcohol withdrawal. Additionally, female B6 mice were given IA to ethanol and drank significantly more than males (ca. 30 g/kg/24 h).

Discussion: The IA method in B6 mice is advantageous because it induces escalated, voluntary, and preferential per os ethanol intake, behavior that may mimic a cardinal feature of human alcohol dependence, though the exact nature and site of ethanol acting in the brain and blood as a result of IA has yet to be determined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology*
  • Alcohol Withdrawal Seizures / physiopathology
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drinking Behavior / physiology*
  • Ethanol*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Ethanol