Reinstatement of alcohol-seeking by priming injections of alcohol and exposure to stress in rats

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1998 Jan;135(2):169-74. doi: 10.1007/s002130050498.


Previous studies using a reinstatement procedure have found that acute reexposure to the self-administered drug and exposure to footshock stress reinstate heroin and cocaine seeking after prolonged drug-free periods. Here we tested whether these findings generalize to alcohol-taking behavior. Male rats were initially allowed to consume alcohol in a two-bottle choice procedure (water versus alcohol) for 30 min/day for 36 days. Rats were then trained for 60 min/day in operant chambers to press a lever for the drug (0.13 ml of 12% w/v of an alcohol solution) for up to 55 days. After stable drug-taking on a fixed-ratio-3 schedule of reinforcement was obtained, lever pressing for alcohol was extinguished by terminating drug delivery for 4-9 days. Reinstatement of drug seeking was then determined after non-contingent priming injections of alcohol (0.24 and 0.48 g/kg; given i.p. and orally) or exposure to intermittent footshock stress (5 and 15 min; 0.8 mA). Priming injections of alcohol produced a modest dose-dependent reinstatement of drug seeking, whereas footshock stress potently reinstated extinguished alcohol seeking. In contrast, similar parameters of footshock failed to reinstate extinguished sucrose-taking behavior in rats previously trained to lever press for sucrose pellets. These findings extend previous reports on reinstatement of cocaine and heroin seeking by a footshock stressor and by priming drug injections. It also appears that the reinstatement procedure provides an appropriate methodology to study relapse to alcohol-taking behavior in the drug-free state.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects*
  • Injections, Intraperitoneal
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Self Administration
  • Stress, Physiological*


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol