Protective Behavioral Strategies Mediate the Relationship Between Behavioral Economic Risk Factors and Alcohol-Related Problems

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Abstract

Behavioral economic measures of alcohol reward value and future orientation have received support as predictors of alcohol consumption, alcohol-related problems, and response to intervention. Protective behavioral strategies (PBS) have been shown to be a significant mediator between a variety of risk factors and alcohol-related problems. The current article examines direct and mediating associations between measures of alcohol reward value (proportionate substance-related activity participation and enjoyment) and future orientation, use of PBS, and alcohol-related problems. Participants were 393 undergraduates (39.2% male, 78.9% Caucasian) who reported at least 2 past-month binge drinking episodes (5 and 4 drinks for men and women, respectively). This study is a secondary analysis of data collected previously as part of a brief intervention study. Alcohol reward value and future orientation were significantly associated with both protective behavioral strategies and alcohol problems. PBS was a significant partial mediator between these variables and alcohol-related problems after controlling for gender, level of alcohol consumption, and sensation seeking. This study provides support for the hypothesis that high levels of reinforcement from alcohol relative to alternatives and low consideration of the future may lead to patterns of dysregulated drinking with few harm-reduction strategies that increase risk for alcohol problems. In addition to directly targeting PBS, brief alcohol interventions for college students should attempt to increase future orientation and substance-free activities.

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