Ethanol Self-Administration in Males with and without an Alcoholic First-Degree Relative


  • This research was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DAO2812). Use of the Clinical Research Center was supported by United States Public Health Service Grant MO1RR00055. Preliminary findings were presented at the 1989 meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism.

Reprint requests: Harriet de Wit, Ph.D., Assistant Professor. The University of Chicago, Department of Psychiatry, 5841 South Maryland Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60637.


The reinforcing and subjective effects of a low dose of ethanol (ETH; 0.5 g/kg) were investigated in normal males with or without an alcoholic first-degree relative. Reinforcing effects were measured using a double-blind preference procedure comparing ETH to placebo (PLC), and subjective effects were assessed using standardized self-report questionnaires. Subjects with a positive family history of alcoholism (FHP) did not differ from subjects without alcoholic relatives (FHN) either in frequency of choice of ETH over PLC (about 60% of occasions) or in the total dose self-administered (about 0.9 g/kg per session). The two groups also did not differ on most measures of acute ETH effects (e.g., mood-altering effects, liking ratings, behavioral changes, or blood ETH levels). The FHP subjects reported a slightly faster onset of “feeling any drug effects’and “high’after ETH than the FHN group. The FHP group also scored higher than the FHN group on several scales indicative of dysphoric mood, regardless of drug administration. Thus under these conditions male social drinkers with or without a family history of alcoholism did not differ either in preference for ETH or in their subjective responses to the drug.