SEX DIFFERENCES IN ALCOHOL ADDICTION DURING ADOLESCENCE

picture of Lauren O'Neil presenting his/her poster: SEX DIFFERENCES IN ALCOHOL ADDICTION DURING ADOLESCENCE

Lauren O'Neil , Dr. Cynthia Kuhn, Dr. Nicole Schramm-Sapyta

SEX DIFFERENCES IN ALCOHOL ADDICTION DURING ADOLESCENCE

Alcoholism affects 6 million people in the United States, negatively affecting these individuals and those they come into contact with every day. Alcoholism results from lasting changes in the neural pathways related to reinforcement and impulse control. Age and sex are important factors in development of this disease. Adolescents that engage in drinking or drug use are more likely to develop substance use disorders than those who abstain until adulthood. More men are addicted to alcohol than women, but women more rapidly progress from experimentation to addiction than men. Explanations for these phenomena remain elusive; both biological and sociological factors could contribute to these outcomes. Controlled experiments with rodents allow exploration of biological mechanisms related to age-specific and sex-specific vulnerability. We hypothesized that female rats would escalate their drinking as well as drink more ethanol than their male counterparts and that adolescent rats would drink more than adult rats. Rats that were post-natal (PN) 28 days, the beginning of adolescence, were used in an ethanol paradigm called every other day (EOD) drinking. This regimen of drinking continued until the rats were PN 65 days, the extent of their adolescence. Rats were exposed to 20% ethanol and water every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and allowed to drink ad libitum. The other days of the week the rats only had water as a drinking option. The extra day during the weekend was designed to simulate withdrawal. The amount of ethanol consumed was normalized to the weight of the animal. Sex differences did not affect the rats drinking habits. Day of the week affected drinking with rats drinking significantly more (p = 0.0003) on Mondays, after the withdrawal period, when compared to drinking on Fridays. Adolescent rats drank significantly more (p = 0.006) than adult rats, as was hypothesized. Animals were broken into three tertiles, high, low and medium drinkers by separating the groups based upon their drinking at PN 65. Comparison of high and low drinkers showed that high drinkers maintain an adolescent pattern of drinking, not decreasing significantly over time.

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