Benzodiazepines enhance the consumption and palatability of alcohol in the rat
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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.
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