Journal of Neural Transmission

, Volume 107, Issue 6, pp 669-680

First online:

Pharmacological validation of a new animal model of alcoholism

  • R. SpanagelAffiliated withMax Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Federal Republic of Germany
  • , S. M. HölterAffiliated withMax Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Federal Republic of Germany

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A new animal model of alcoholism has been developed. Rats derived from this model show certain characteristics: (i) they have an incentive demand to consume alcohol, (ii) they exhibit relapse-like drinking even after a very long time of abstinence, (iii) they show tolerance to alcohol and have mild signs of physical withdrawal during the onset of abstinence, and (iv) during abstinence they also exhibit a psychological withdrawal syndrome consisting of enhanced anxiety-related behaviour and hyperreactivity to stressful situations.

Anti-craving drugs such as acamprosate and naltrexone which proved to be effective in human alcoholics to prevent relapse were also effective in our animal model. Thus, both compounds suppressed the alcohol deprivation effect which is used as a measure for craving and relapse. It is concluded that this pharmacological validation of our model demonstrates the predictive value of our model and enables us to further characterize putative anti-craving drugs and neurobiological mechanisms of addictive behaviour.

Keywords: Alcoholism, craving, relapse, acamprosate, naltrexone.