Combined ∆ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol and moderate alcohol administration: effects on ingestive behaviors in adolescent male rats

Nnamdi G. Nelson, Wen Xuan Law, Michael J. Weingarten, Lauren N. Carnevale, Aditi Das, Nu Chu Liang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rationale: Whereas co-use of alcohol and marijuana is prevalent in adolescents, the effects of such drug co-exposure on ingestive and cognitive behaviors remain largely unexplored. We hypothesized that co-exposure to alcohol and ∆ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive constitute of marijuana, alters feeding behavior and cognition differently from either drug alone. Methods: Male rats received daily THC (3–20 mg/kg/day) or oil vehicle through subcutaneous injection or consumption of a cookie with access to saccharin or saccharin-sweetened alcohol during adolescence (P30–45). Barnes maze and sucrose preference tests were applied to assess spatial memory and behavioral flexibility and abstinence-related anhedonia, respectively. Results: Subcutaneous THC did not affect alcohol intake but dose-dependently increased acute (3 h) chow intake and reduced weight gain. Moderate alcohol consumption reduced the acute hyperphagic effect of subcutaneous THC. By contrast, oral THC at a dose > 5 mg/kg robustly reduced alcohol intake without affecting 3-h chow intake. At this dose, some rats stopped consuming the THC-laced cookies. Furthermore, oral THC reduced weight gain, and co-exposure to alcohol alleviated this effect. Chronic subcutaneous, but not oral, THC reduced sucrose intake during abstinence. Neither treatment impaired cognitive behaviors in the Barnes maze. Conclusion: Moderate alcohol and THC consumption can interact to elicit unique outcomes on ingestive behaviors and energy balance. Importantly, this study established a novel model of voluntary alcohol and THC consumption for studying mechanisms underlying the consequences of adolescent onset co-use of the two drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)671-684
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 14 2019


  • Adolescence
  • Alcohol
  • Barnes maze
  • Cognitive function
  • Ingestive behavior
  • Polydrug use
  • Sucrose preference
  • ∆ -tetrahydrocannabinol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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