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The Effects of Price Changes on Alcohol Consumption in Alcohol-Experienced Rats


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  • Jeffrey K. Sarbaum
  • Solomon W. Polachek
  • Norman E. Spear


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.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6443.

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Date of creation: Mar 1998
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Publication status: published as Jeffrey K. Sarbaum, Solomon W. Polachek, Norman E. Spear. "The Effects of Price Changes on Alcohol Consumption in Alcohol-Experienced Rats," in Frank J. Chaloupka, Michael Grossman, Warren K. Bickel and Henry Saffer, editors, "The Economic Analysis of Substance Use and Abuse: An Integration of Econometrics and Behavioral Economic Research" University of Chicago Press (1999)
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6443

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  1. Gary S. Becker & Michael Grossman & Kevin M. Murphy, 1994. "An Empirical Analysis of Cigarette Addiction," NBER Working Papers 3322, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1986. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 41, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  3. Kagel, John H, et al, 1975. "Experimental Studies of Consumer Demand Behavior Using Laboratory Animals," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 13(1), pages 22-38, March.
  4. Grossman, Michael & Chaloupka, Frank J & Sirtalan, Ismail, 1998. "An Empirical Analysis of Alcohol Addiction: Results from the Monitoring the Future Panels," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(1), pages 39-48, January.
  5. Frank J. Chaloupka, 1991. "Rational Addictive Behavior and Cigarette Smoking," NBER Working Papers 3268, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Gary S.Grossman Becker & Michael Murphy & Kevin M., 1991. "Rational Addiction and the Effect of Price on Consumption," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 68, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  7. Michael Grossman & Frank J. Chaloupka & Charles C. Brown, 1999. "The Demand for Cocaine by Young Adults: A Rational Addiction Approach," NBER Working Papers 5713, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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