, 201:137

Social rank and social separation as determinants of alcohol drinking in squirrel monkeys

Original Investigation

DOI: 10.1007/s00213-008-1256-y

Cite this article as:
McKenzie-Quirk, S.D. & Miczek, K.A. Psychopharmacology (2008) 201: 137. doi:10.1007/s00213-008-1256-y



Alcohol may be self-administered for its anxiolytic effects to alleviate symptoms of stress, but different types of stressors have varying effects on alcohol intake. Social stress is particularly relevant to alcohol drinking, and a primate model of stress-induced alcohol self-administration would be useful.


The objective of the study is to determine if social stresses of different lengths and intensities affect voluntary alcohol intake in monkeys.

Materials and methods

Subjects were adult male and female squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) housed in social colonies. Subjects were trained to drink a solution of ethanol and sucrose, alternated daily with a control solution of quinine and an equal concentration of sucrose in 15-min sessions. Drinking was tested during 20-min acute, social separations and 1-week, extended, social separations. Dominance status was quantified using observational records of social interactions within the colonies. Salivary cortisol was sampled in the home colony and during extended social separation.


Dominance rank was inversely correlated with alcohol intake during social housing but was not correlated with control fluid intake. Acute social separation abolished drinking of both fluids, accompanied by increased anxiety-like behavior. Extended social separation increased salivary cortisol and alcohol drinking but not control fluid intake in males. In females, drinking was unchanged by extended separation.


The chronic stress of social subordination is correlated with increased alcohol drinking. Acute social separation stress suppresses drinking behavior, while extended separation preferentially increases alcohol intake in a subset of individuals. These findings suggest that social stressors of different time-courses and intensities have opposing effects on alcohol self-administration.


Alcohol Ethanol Self-administration Stress Cortisol Vocalization Squirrel monkey Dominance Social behavior 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTufts UniversityMedfordUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Psychiatry, Pharmacology, and NeuroscienceTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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