Alcohol-induced place conditioning in moderate social drinkers

Addiction. 2016 Dec;111(12):2157-2165. doi: 10.1111/add.13540. Epub 2016 Sep 12.


Aims: To test whether non-dependent drinkers show place preference for a location paired with alcohol, and to test if the amount of time spent in the alcohol-paired location is related to self-reported subjective alcohol effects experienced in that environment.

Design: Two groups of subjects completed six conditioning sessions: three with alcohol (0.8 g/kg) and three without alcohol. Individuals were assigned randomly to two groups, paired and unpaired, in a 2 : 1 ratio. The paired group (n = 78) received alcohol in one testing room and no-alcohol in another testing room (biased assignment). The unpaired group (n = 30) received alcohol and no-alcohol in each testing room.

Setting: Human Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA (single site).

Participants: Healthy male and female social drinkers (n = 108) aged 21-40 years participated in the study (consisting of 10 separate laboratory visits) between March 2012 and August 2014 (an average of 36 separate subject visits per month).

Measurements: The primary outcome measure was the pre- to post-conditioning change in the percentage of time spent in the least preferred room (obtained during drug-free exploration tests conducted at separate visits before and after the six conditioning sessions were completed). Secondary measures included self-reported subjective mood and drug effects obtained during the conditioning sessions.

Findings: The groups differed in the change in the percentage of time spent in the initially least preferred room, from pre- to post-conditioning; paired group = 11.0%, unpaired group = -1.4%, mean difference = 12.4%, 95% confidence interval = 1.9-23.0, P = 0.02. The change in the percentage of time spent in the least-preferred room was related to the self-reported sedative effects of alcohol during conditioning sessions among paired group participants only.

Conclusions: Non-dependent consumers of alcohol appear to develop a behavioral preference for locations paired with alcohol consumption, more so for those who experience sedative effects from alcohol in those locations.

Keywords: Alcohol; behavior; conditioned place preference; sedation; social drinkers; subjective effects.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Conditioning, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Self Report
  • Young Adult