How Actions Taken (or not) Under Alcohol Influence Inhibitory Control and Perceived Impairment

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Consumption of alcohol can lead to the impairment of the ability to suppress inappropriate responses. However, alcohol-induced disinhibition does not occur in all contexts in the real world. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine if actions taken (or not) under alcohol will impact observed inhibitory control and how behavioral control requirements under alcohol alter perceived levels of impairment. Participants (n = 40) of equal sex who were social drinkers participated in a 3 session laboratory study that involved the administration of placebo, 0.45g/kg, and 0.65g/kg doses of alcohol. Participants were randomly assigned to a modified cued go/no-go reaction time (RT) task that included more go trials (activational condition) or more no-go trials (inhibitory condition). On all sessions after dose administration, participants completed their assigned cued go/no-go computer task and gave subjective ratings of impairment. The results indicated that participants in the activational condition under all doses of alcohol, but particularly the highest dose of alcohol, displayed poorer behavioral control (i.e., greater inhibitory failures) but self-reported lower perceived impairment, when compared to participants in the inhibitory condition. Therefore, this study provides laboratory evidence that alcohol consumption in an active setting will lead to greater disinhibition and reduced perceptions of impairment of behavior. The findings highlight the importance of the drinking setting when examining the acute effects of alcohol and suggest potential avenues for harm reduction for individuals who have difficulty controlling their alcohol intake.

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