Going Through Withdrawals: The Effects of Binge Alcohol Exposure on Amphetamine Preference Development, Drug Extinction Behavior, and c-Fos Expression in the Nucleus Accumbens

By: Lauren O'Laughlin '17

Advising Faculty: Joseph Schroeder

The binge use of alcohol and abuse of amphetamine in the form of prescription ADHD medication is on the rise among young adults. According to the gateway hypothesis, repeated exposure to alcohol, particularly binge use of alcohol may predispose individuals to use and become addicted to other drugs of abuse including psychostimulants. Alcohol abuse may also make it more difficult to recover from dependency on other drugs of abuse. This study investigated the effects of binge alcohol pre- and/or post-exposure on the development and extinction of amphetamine conditioned place preference in young adult Sprague-Dawley rats. Animals pre-exposed to alcohol received 6 total alcohol (1.5 g/kg, sc of 20% alcohol in saline) injections on 2 consecutive days at 48-hour intervals for a 10-day period one week prior to undergoing a 7 day, biased amphetamine conditioned place preference (CPP) paradigm. Contrary to the gateway hypothesis, binge alcohol exposure reduced the development of amphetamine CPP. However, binge alcohol pre-exposure also attenuated extinction to amphetamine CPP. Exposure to alcohol following amphetamine CPP (post-exposure) only affected extinction in animals that also underwent alcohol pre-exposure. These results suggest that binge alcohol exposure may dampen the development of the association between amphetamine reward and contextual cues, but may extend the extinction of amphetamine reward behavior. Immunohistochemical data did not show any differences in c-Fos nucleus accumbens expression between alcohol conditions, but data did show certain sex differences. To the extent that this model applies to humans, binge drinking may not predispose young adults to amphetamine abuse, however it may make recovery from amphetamine dependency more difficult.

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Related Fields: Psychology