Ethanol as a Reinforcer: Comparison with Other Drugs

  • Gail Winger
  • Alice M. Young
  • James H. Woods


Although ethanol is no less a drug than compounds such as heroin, cocaine, or pentobarbital, ethanol has one distinction that has tended to place it in a category by itself. It is probably the most behaviorally active drug legally available in the United States that is purchased and used primarily because of its intoxicating properties. It is perhaps because ethanol is a legally available drug of abuse that ethanol research is funded by a governmental agency that is separate from the agency that funds research on all other drugs of abuse. It is perhaps for the same reason that ethanol is frequently given individual status in titles of journals, chapters, and books that deal with drug dependence.* It is undoubtedly for this reason that moderate ethanol use is more socially acceptable than similar use of other drugs. We would like, in this chapter, to compare ethanol to other studied psychoactive drugs with respect to its ability to maintain drug-taking behavior. Although we offer no judgment, on the basis of these comparisons, on whether ethanol deserves its singular legal status, we find the comparisons to be interesting, provocative, and, we hope, of heuristic value.


Rhesus Monkey Drug Intake Ethanol Intake Physical Dependence Withdrawal Sign 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gail Winger
    • 1
  • Alice M. Young
    • 1
  • James H. Woods
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Pharmacology and PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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