Social Models of Drinking Behavior in Animals

The Importance of Individual Differences
  • Gaylord D. Ellison
  • Allen D. Potthoff


Although certain social environments clearly facilitate alcohol intake in humans, the role of social factors in alcohol consumption by animals is less clear. While social housing conditions such as crowding and isolation increase alcohol consumption in animals, in both cases this is mediated by heightened stress. Increases in social tension increase alcohol consumption in social groups of animals, but the literature is extremely variable in reports of how dominance correlates with alcohol consumption. Alcohol administration has biphasic effects on social behavior of animals similar to its biphasic effects on activity levels.

We report a novel, social animal model of alcoholism. Rats raised over prolonged periods in highly enriched, social colony environments develop a variety of rhythms of alcohol consumption. But in each colony, only a few animals develop into extreme overconsumers of alcohol, and the proportion of colony-housed animals that develop such excessive alcohol -consumption habits is similar to the proportion of humans with alcohol problems. These overconsumers of alcohol from a rat colony show a variety of alterations in behavior, including chronic inactivity and low dominance standing. They represent a novel, voluntary animal model of social alcoholism.


Alcohol Consumption Social Housing Maternal Behavior Alcohol Administration Increase Alcohol Consumption 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gaylord D. Ellison
    • 1
  • Allen D. Potthoff
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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