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Motivational models of alcohol use suggest that individual differences in sensitivity to the acute subjective effects of alcohol play an important role in motivational pathways to alcohol use. However, few studies have examined the link between drinking motives and subjective responses to alcohol. This study investigated the associations of coping and enhancement drinking motives with subjective stimulant and sedative effects during a laboratory alcohol administration session. We also examined whether stimulation and sedation following alcohol administration mediated the relationships between drinking motives and postalcohol ratings of alcohol wanting and liking.Heavy episodic drinkers (n = 147, ages 19 to 25) at 2 sites participated in an intravenous alcohol administration session in which blood alcohol concentration was raised to a target of 80 mg% over 20 minutes. Participants completed measures of stimulation and sedation at baseline and 20 minutes and also rated alcohol liking and wanting at 20 minutes. Drinking motives and alcohol use were assessed during a previous laboratory visit.A path analysis controlling for baseline stimulation and sedation showed that enhancement motives were positively associated with postalcohol stimulation and negatively associated with postalcohol sedation. In contrast, coping motives were positively associated with postalcohol sedation. In turn, postalcohol stimulation, but not sedation, was associated with alcohol wanting and liking. Further, indirect pathways from enhancement motives to postalcohol wanting and liking mediated through postalcohol stimulation were statistically significant. Coping motives, on the other hand, were directly associated with increased postalcohol wanting and liking.The results demonstrate that drinking motives are linked with individual differences in sensitivity to the effects of alcohol, which may serve as a mechanism underlying alcohol reinforcement and the motivation to consume more alcohol during a drinking episode.This study examined the associations between drinking motives and subjective responses to alcohol during an intravenous alcohol session (target BAC = 80 mg%). Enhancement motives predicted greater stimulation and less sedation, whereas coping motives predicted greater sedation. Stimulation mediated the associations of enhancement motives with alcohol wanting and liking, whereas coping motives were directly associated with wanting and liking. Results suggest that drinking motives are linked with sensitivity to alcohol's subjective effects, which may underlie state motivation to consume alcohol at the event level.