Repeated, prolonged exposure to alcohol leads to the development of tolerance and, eventually, dependence. Daily drinking of even small amounts of alcohol will lead to a diminution of the experienced effects, or tolerance. If reasonably large amounts of alcohol are consumed for extended periods, physical dependence may develop, as measured by the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms (nausea, severe gastrointestinal upset, even convulsions) when alcohol is withheld. Tolerance and physical dependence are usually considered to be early and late manifestations, respectively, of the same or closely related physiological phenomena. More accurately, they appear to develop roughly in parallel. Recently there have been several adequate rodent models developed for the study of tolerance to and physical dependence on ethanol2,5,6. Application of these models may greatly increase our knowledge about the early stages of tolerance and dependence development and have considerable impact on theories of tolerance and dependence.
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