Increased Sensitivity to the Disinhibiting Effects of Alcohol in Binge Drinkers


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Abstract

Heavy episodic alcohol use, or binge drinking, is a serious public health problem. Binge drinking is endemic in college students and has resulted in numerous alcohol-related tragedies, including acute alcohol poisonings, falls, and automobile collisions. Such negative outcomes might occur because binge drinkers are generally more impulsive, and this impulsivity might be exacerbated under alcohol. The purpose of this study was to examine this hypothesis by comparing the acute effects of alcohol on a cognitive measure of behavioral control in binge and nonbinge drinkers. The results indicated that binge drinkers act more impulsively and report feeling more stimulated under an acute 0.65 g/kg dose of alcohol compared to nonbinge drinkers. The present finding of a heightened disinhibitory reaction to alcohol in binge drinkers may help explain the link between impulsivity and problem drinking at a more fundamental level of behavioral control.

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