The Effects of Price Changes on Alcohol Consumption in Alcohol-Experienced Rats
Jeffrey K. Sarbaum, Solomon W. Polachek, Norman E. Spear
NBER Working Paper No. 6443
This paper reports results of two experiments designed to measure how addicted rats (i.e. laboratory rats with previous ethanol exposure via a variant of the Samson ethanol fading technique) respond to changes in the price of ethanol. For both experiments, rats facing a budget constraint choose between two alternative non-ethanol commodities in a morning control session and between ethanol and a non-ethanol commodity in an afternoon session. The results from both experiments shows that economic models of consumer choice are a useful tool to study ethanol and non-ethanol consumption in rats, and that a history of ethanol exposure did not interfere with rats' ability to behave according to economic theory. In the first experiment, rats responded only moderately to a 100% price increase (especially when compared to the response for the non-ethanol commodity during the control session), but more dramatically for a 400% ethanol price increase. However, going back to baseline prices after a prolonged duration of high ethanol prices yields some evidence that ethanol consumption declines below its original levels. In the second experiment rats responded to increased ethanol prices but not to a cue signaling future price increases. Thus, the experiments provide evidence supporting habit formation but not rational addiction as an explanation of ethanol consumption in rats.