Date of Award

Spring 1999

Document Type

Legacy Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)




College of Science

First Advisor

Joan Piroch


The relationship between anxiety and alcohol consumption has been investigated for decades. Conger first formalized this relationship in 1956 and referred to it as the tension reduction theory. According to the theory, organisms suffering from anxiety consume alcohol as a means of self-medicating. This study investigated the anxiolytic effects of alcohol and the relationship between levels of emotionality and alcohol consumption. Eighteen Brown Norwegian rats were evaluated using an open field test. Locomotion and defecation scores were recorded within the open field for each subject during five-minute testing intervals. An oral ethanol self-administration procedure was then initiated for 72 hours. A second open field test was subsequently conducted. Data were analyzed with t tests. The results indicated a significant decrease in anxiety following ethanol self-administration. No significant relationship was found between baseline anxiety and ethanol consumption. Results were discussed in terms ofthe tension reduction theory. Research directed at understanding anxiety and its relationship to alcoholism holds numerous implications for public health. Establishing the anxiolytic mechanisms of alcohol may allow for the prevention of alcohol disorders that often follow the development of anxiety disorders.