, Volume 137, Issue 3, pp 215-222

Benzodiazepines enhance the consumption and palatability of alcohol in the rat

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Abstract

This study examined the effect of the benzodiazepine, midazolam, on the consumption and palatability of 6% ethanol in male Wistar rats. In the first experiment, it was found that midazolam (5 mg/kg) increased home cage ethanol drinking 0–2 h after administration. Another intake experiment, in which ethanol was infused directly into the oral cavity through an indwelling catheter, also showed that midazolam (10 mg/kg) stimulated alcohol ingestion. The affective response to intraoral infusions of ethanol (1 ml during 1 min) was subsequently monitored in benzodiazepine-treated rats. Taste reactivity testing showed that midazolam (5–10 mg/kg) significantly increased the occurrence of hedonic orofacial responses and suppressed the number of passive drippings. A similar response pattern was observed following administration of diazepam (5 mg/kg) and chlordiazepoxide (10 mg/kg), but not after exposure to cis(Z)flupentixol (10 mg/kg). Midazolam also increased the incidence of hedonic responses in alcohol-naive rats with no previous access to ethanol in the home cages. Hedonic responsiveness did not appear to diminish with repeated benzodiazepine exposure: the behaviour of rats given five midazolam injections (10 mg/kg every second day) was similar to that shown by rats with no benzodiazepine pre-exposure. The increased hedonic response to ethanol induced by midazolam was blocked by pretreatment with the benzodiazepine receptor antagonist flumazenil (10 mg/kg), the latter drug exerting no effects on its own. The present results suggest that benzodiazepines, by acting on GABAA receptors, may facilitate ethanol intake by increasing ethanol’s taste hedonic properties.

Received: 22 April 1997/Final version: 14 October 1997