Habitual alcohol seeking: modeling the transition from casual drinking to addiction

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2014 Nov:47:281-94. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.08.012. Epub 2014 Sep 2.


The transition from goal-directed actions to habitual ethanol seeking models the development of addictive behavior that characterizes alcohol use disorders. The progression to habitual ethanol-seeking behavior occurs more rapidly than for natural rewards, suggesting that ethanol may act on habit circuit to drive the loss of behavioral flexibility. This review will highlight recent research that has focused on the formation and expression of habitual ethanol seeking, and the commonalities and distinctions between ethanol and natural reward-seeking habits, with the goal of highlighting important, understudied research areas that we believe will lead toward the development of novel treatment and prevention strategies for uncontrolled drinking.

Keywords: Addiction; Alcohol; Goal-directed behavior; Habit; Prefrontal cortex; Striatum.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Drug-Seeking Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Reward