The motivation for beer in rats: effects of ritanserin, naloxone and SR 141716
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Rats were given two weeks of home cage access to either “near-beer” (a beverage that tastes like beer but contains <0.5% ethanol v/v) or near-beer with added ethanol (4.5% v/v), which is simply referred to as “beer”. The two groups of rats (near-beer and beer) were then trained on a “lick-based progressive ratio paradigm” in operant chambers in which an ever increasing number of licks had to be emitted for each successive fixed unit of near-beer or beer delivered. Break points (the ratio at which responding ceased) for near-beer and beer were approximately equal under baseline conditions. Rats were then tested for the effects of the 5HT2A/2C receptor antagonist ritanserin (0.625, 2.5 or 10 mg/kg), the opioid receptor antagonist naloxone (0.625, 2.5 or 10 mg/kg) or the cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist SR 141716 (0.3, 1 or 3 mg/kg). All three drugs caused a dose-dependent reduction of break-points and locomotor activity in both the beer and near-beer groups. However, the effects of SR 141716 and naloxone, but not ritanserin, on break-points were significantly more pronounced on rats drinking beer compared to those drinking near-beer. There were no such differential effects of any of the drugs on locomotor activity across the two groups. These results suggest that both SR 141716 and naloxone differentially affect the motivation to consume alcoholic beverages and may thus have potential as drugs for the treatment of alcohol craving.