Alcohol reinforcement and
neuropharmacological therapeutics

Lewis MJ
Department of Psychology,
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA.
Alcohol Alcohol Suppl 1996 Mar; 1:17-25


The pleasant subjective effects produced by alcohol undoubtedly reinforce drinking behaviour. Alcohol positively reinforces or rewards drinking by producing a mild euphoria. Alcohol also has anxiolytic effects that negatively reinforce drinking. The reinforcing effects of alcohol are mediated by several neurochemical systems, with dopamine and serotonin playing major roles in reward and the gamma-aminobutyric acid-benzodiazepine receptor system playing a major role in negative reinforcement. Research from our laboratory suggests that the behavioural effects of alcohol change when blood alcohol levels are changing and that these changes correspond to alterations of specific neurochemical systems. Behavioural activation and reward effects appear to occur as blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) increase. Depressive and aversive effects of alcohol occur during the period when BACs decrease. The observed correlation between behavioural and neuropharmacological changes and alcohol consumption suggest that alcohol produces a unique cascade over time that may provide clues to its long-sought specific mechanisms of action. In alcohol-dependent individuals, chronic exposure to alcohol may alter the function and communication between the liver, brain and other vital organ systems involved in hunger and the maintenance of nutrition. Under such conditions, the importance of alcohol in the diet may be enhanced such that hunger signals in the alcohol-dependent individual motivate the consumption of alcohol. Therefore, hunger for alcohol may provide an additional source of reinforcement. Endogenous opioid mechanisms may be important in this form of alcohol reinforcement.
GABA and sleep
Drugs for alcoholics
GHB and alcoholism
SSRIs and alcoholics
Alcohol and citalopram
The motivation for beer
Ethyl alcohol and suicide
Tryptophan and alcoholism
Nicotine-ethanol interaction
Alcohol, suicide and serotonin
Drink, drugs and sex in antiquity
Alcoholism, dopamine and the brain
Ethyl alcohol and beta-endorphin release
Alcohol, alcoholism and GABA(A) receptors
Does drinking alcohol promote the growth of new brain cells?

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