To Infuse or Ingest in Human Laboratory Alcohol Research

Melissa A. Cyders, Martin H. Plawecki, William Corbin, Andrea King, Denis M. McCarthy, Vijay A. Ramchandani, Jessica Weafer, Sean J. O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Human alcohol laboratory studies use two routes of alcohol administration: ingestion and infusion. The goal of this paper was to compare and contrast these alcohol administration methods. The work summarized in this report was the basis of a 2019 Research Society on Alcoholism Roundtable, “To Ingest or Infuse: A Comparison of Oral and Intravenous Alcohol Administration Methods for Human Alcohol Laboratory Designs.” We review the methodological approaches of each and highlight strengths and weaknesses pertaining to different research questions. We summarize methodological considerations to aid researchers in choosing the most appropriate method for their inquiry, considering exposure variability, alcohol expectancy effects, safety, bandwidth, technical skills, documentation of alcohol exposure, experimental variety, ecological validity, and cost. Ingestion of alcohol remains a common and often a preferable, methodological practice in alcohol research. Nonetheless, the main problem with ingestion is that even the most careful calculation of dose and control of dosing procedures yields substantial and uncontrollable variability in the participants' brain exposures to alcohol. Infusion methodologies provide precise exposure control but are technically complex and may be limited in ecological validity. We suggest that alcohol ingestion research may not be the same thing as alcohol exposure research; investigators should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages that the choice between ingestion and infusion of alcohol invokes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)764-776
Number of pages13
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Development of the CAIS was supported by the Indiana Alcohol Research Center (P60 AA007611). The most current version of CAIS is available to interested investigators at cost; contact for information. Preparation of this article was supported by P60 AA07611 (MC, MP, SO), R01 AA027236 (MC, MP), R01 AA019546 (DM), K01 AA024519 (JW), and R01 AA013746 (AK). The authors would like to acknowledge Ms. Katie Shircliff for her help in the preparation of this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the Research Society on Alcoholism


  • Alcohol Experiments
  • Human Laboratory Research
  • Intravenous Alcohol Infusion
  • Oral Alcohol Ingestion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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