Prazosin Reduces Alcohol Intake in an Animal Model of Alcohol Relapse

Janice C. Froehlich, Brett Hausauer, Stephen Fischer, Bradley Wise, Dennis D. Rasmussen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


Background: Many alcoholics and heavy drinkers undergo repeated cycles of alcohol abstinence followed by relapse to alcohol drinking; a pattern that contributes to escalated alcohol intake over time. In rodents, alcohol drinking that is interspersed with periods of alcohol deprivation (imposed abstinence) increases alcohol intake during reaccess to alcohol. This is termed the "alcohol deprivation effect" or "ADE" and is a model of alcohol relapse in humans. We have previously reported that prazosin reduces alcohol drinking during both brief and prolonged treatment in rats selectively bred for alcohol preference ("P" rats). This study explores whether prazosin prevents alcohol "relapse" in P rats, as reflected by a reduced or abolished ADE. Methods: Adult male P rats were given 24-hour access to food and water and scheduled access to alcohol (15 and 30% v/v solutions presented concurrently) for 2 h/d. After 5 weeks, rats underwent imposed alcohol deprivation for 2 weeks, followed by alcohol reaccess for 2 weeks, and this pattern was repeated for a total of 3 cycles. Rats were injected with prazosin (0, 0.5, 1.0, or 2.0 mg/kg body weight, intraperitoneally) once a day for the first 5 days of each alcohol reaccess cycle. Results: Alcohol intake increased on the first day of each alcohol reaccess cycle, demonstrating the formation of an ADE. The ADE was short-lived, lasting only 1 day, during each of the 3 cycles. Prazosin, in all doses tested, prevented the expression of an ADE in all 3 alcohol reaccess cycles. Conclusions: Prazosin decreases alcohol intake in P rats even in a situation that would be expected to increase alcohol drinking, namely following periods of alcohol deprivation. This suggests that prazosin may be effective in reducing alcohol relapse that often occurs during attempts to achieve permanent alcohol abstinence in treatment-seeking alcoholics and heavy drinkers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1538-1546
Number of pages9
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Alcohol Deprivation Effect
  • Alcohol Preferring Rats
  • Alcohol Relapse
  • Prazosin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Toxicology

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