Serotonin and alcohol intake, abuse, and dependence: findings of animal studies

Biol Psychiatry. 1994 Sep 15;36(6):395-421. doi: 10.1016/0006-3223(94)91215-7.


Despite a relatively large body of literature on the role of the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, or 5-HT) in the regulation of alcohol intake, the functional significance of serotonergic neurotransmission and its relationship to alcohol intake, abuse, and dependence remains to be fully elucidated. In part two of this review, the experimental (animal) data is summarized along two lines: the effects of serotonergic manipulations on the intake of alcohol, and the effects of acute and chronic alcohol intake, as well as the withdrawal of chronic alcohol, on the serotonergic system. It is concluded that serotonin mediates ethanol intake as a part of its larger role in behavior modulation, such that increases in serotonergic functioning decrease ethanol intake, and decreased serotonergic functioning increases ethanol intake. Ethanol produces transient increases in serotonergic functioning that activate the mesolimbic dopaminergic reward system. The results are discussed in light of recent theories describing the regulatory role of serotonin in general behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology*
  • Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium / physiopathology*
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Motivation
  • Receptors, Serotonin / physiology*
  • Serotonin / physiology*


  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Serotonin
  • Dopamine