ALCOHOL AND BEHAVIOR

Don't Blame It On Alcohol from About.com 10/13/03
Muriel Vogel-Sprott and colleagues from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, tested this idea by asking volunteers to press a button when prompted by a computer screen. However, they were told not to respond if a red light also appeared.

Those who were given alcohol for the experiment were more likely to press the button regardless, just as a drinker is more likely to punch someone even if told to stop, Vogel-Sprott said in a news release.

The researchers found that drinkers offered a small reward, such as verbal approval, performed as well as sober volunteers. Vogel-Sprott said this means that people who've been drinking can control their behavior if they want to.

"Drinkers can sometimes display foolish, inappropriate or harmful behavior that they would not exhibit when sober," said Muriel Vogel-Sprott in a study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. "This is commonly attributed to the effects of alcohol, for example, explaining away the behavior by saying 'I couldn't stop myself' or 'I didn't mean it.'"

Vogel-Sprott found that a moderate dose of alcohol selectively diminished intentional control when social drinkers' behavior had no consequence. However, when performance under alcohol had some 'payoff' -- for example, money or verbal approval -- intentional control was maintained.

"Was the behavior due to alcohol," asked Vogel-Sprott, "or was it intentional? On one hand, it appears that alcohol can impair cognitive processes controlling inhibition and intentional behavior. But, on the other hand, the intensity of impairment may also depend upon the characteristics of the drinker and the consequences of behavior in the drinking situation."

The Vogel-Sprott research dealt with subjects who had only a small amount of alcohol before the testing, and did not address highly intoxicated individuals.

Abbey, Antonia; Buck, Philip O.; Zawacki, Tina; Saenz, Christopher; "Alcohol's effect on perceptions of a potential date rape," JOURNAL OF STUDIES ON ALCOHOL (2003), 64: 669-677. Conclusions: Intoxicated participants perceived the woman in the vignette as being more sexually aroused and the man in the vignette as behaving more appropriately, and both of these variables were negatively related to ratings of how likely it was that forced sex would occur. These findings highlight the importance of mediating cues (intoxication and being in an isolated setting) in intoxicated decision making." Other negative outcomes such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases also need to be emphasized.

McCarthy, Denis M., Brown, Sandra A.; "Changes in alcohol involvement, cognitions and drinking and driving behavior for youth after they obtain a driver's license," JOURNAL OF STUDIES ON ALCOHOL (2004) 65: 289-296. The results indicate a number of changes in substance involvement after obtaining a driver's license. However, initially this transition may also indicate a period of protection against drinking and driving. These results may have implications for the target and content of drinking and driving interventions. These initial data on the relationship for youth between obtaining a driver's license and substance involvement indicate an increase in frequency of alcohol, cigarette and marijuana use after they begin to drive independently.

Vogel-Sprott, M.; "Acute recovery and tolerance to low doses of alcohol: differences in cognitive and motor skill performance," PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY (1979), 61: 287-291. (Two groups of male social drinkers [10 subjects] were given low doses of alcohol four times and trained on pursuit rotor and decoding tasks and breath alcohol was tested on both the ascending and descending Breath alcohol curve. After peak breath alcohol was reached acute recovery was evident in coding at a falling breath alcohol where PR remained impaired. These differences in impairment between tasks on the two limbs of the BAC curve suggested that conflicting evidence on the sensitivity of various tasks to alcohol effects may be obtained when studies examine task performance without respect to the limb of the BAC curve. Coding and tolerance were affected by repeated exposure. It was suggested that the phenomena of acute recovery and tolerance may be positively correlated, and different for different types of tasks.)

Parrott, Dominic J.; Giancola, Peter R.; " The effects of past-year heavy drinking on alcohol-related aggression", JOURNAL OF STUDIES ON ALCOHOL (2006), 67: 122-130. Participants included (52 men and 158 women) all social drinkers between 21 and 35 years of age. Results: Alcohol increased aggression only among highly provoked men who reported a history of heavy episodic drinking. A history of high-frequency drinking did not moderate the alcohol-aggression relation. Conclusion: These findings highlight the importance of considering a history of heavy episodic drinking in the prediction of intoxicated aggression.

Stuart, Gregory L.; Meehan, Jeffrey C.; Moore, Todd M.; Morean, Meghan; Hellmuth, Julianne; Follansbee, Katherine; "Examining a conceptual framework of intimate partner violence in men and women arrested for domestic violence", JOURNAL OF STUDIES ON ALCOHOL (2006), 67: 102-112. The results of this study provide evidence that alcohol problems in both partners are important in the evolution of psychological aggressions and physical violence. There were minimal differences between men and women in the relationships of most distal risk factors with physical aggression, suggesting that the conceptual framework examined may fit equally well regardless of perpetrator gender. This finding suggests that, in arrested men and women, violence intervention programs might have improved outcomes if they offered adjunct or integrated alcohol treatment.

Vogel-Sprott, M.; Alcohol Tolerance and Social Drinking: learning the consequences, New York: Guilford Press, 1992. (P. 177 "Our research demonstrated that the display of symptoms of intoxication and tolerance could be controlled by the consequences of a drinker's behavior under alcohol. Alcohol-tolerant behavior was exhibited in drinking situations where it resulted in a more advantageous consequence that intoxicated behavior. The implication for prevention is that society should hold a drinker responsible for his or her behavior and ensure that the consequences are reliable and balanced so that penalties, or at least no advantage, accrues for the display of socially unacceptable behavior. Our theory suggests that pardoning unacceptable behavior under alcohol fosters the expectation that the behavior is due to the drug. The drinker is thereby excused from responsibility and learns to expect minimal or no adverse consequences for such behavior.")

Vogel-Sprott, M.;: Kartechner, W.; McConnell, D.; "Consequences of behavior influence the effect of alcohol," JOURNAL OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE (1989), 1 (4): 369-79. (Behavioral effects of an acute dose of alcohol intensify while blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) rises, and abate while BAC declines. Elimination processes during this latter phase cannot totally explain this reduction, because the effects typically diminish more rapidly than the declining BAC. More recent research also demonstrates that the behavioral effect at a give rising BAC is greater than that observed at the same BAC on the declining limb of the alcohol curve. Four groups of male social drinkers were tested on a complex psychomotor tasks and then performed it 20 time after drinking a dose of alcohol. Group C received money contingent on the display of non impaired performance. Group I received information, Group R received money randomly, and N received no out come under the drug. A briefer duration of impairment, faster recovery at higher BACs, and less impairment during declining alcohol level was displayed by group C. The findings imply that the learned expectations of some valuable consequence for drug compensatory performance enhances behavioral tolerance to single and repeated doses of alcohol. breath alcohol)

Vogel-Sprott, M., Fillmore, M. T.; "Impairment and recovery under repeated doses of alcohol: effects of response-outcomes," PHARMACOLOGY BIOCHEMISTRY AND BEHAVIOR (1993), 45: 59-63. (36 males, 3 repeated doses of alcohol impairment is govern by two processes: response-outcome associations that determine the amount of impairment displayed under a dose and some adaptive process that determines the rate of recovery with time during exposure to a dose.)

**Vogel-Sprott, M.," Is behavioral tolerance learned?" ALCOHOL HEALTH AND RESEARCH WORLD (1997), 21 (2): 161-9. (Studies conducted on alcoholism suggest that the behavioral tolerance of social drinkers towards alcoholism is developed through repeated exposure. The drinkers perceived expectations of society and the expected consequences of their antisocial actions modify their behavior. The term "tolerance" refers to the reduction in the intensity of the effect of alcohol, or other drugs, over the course of repeated use. These observations accord with the notion that apparent sobriety after drinking or an "ability to handle one's liquor", (i. e. exhibit tolerance to alcohol's behavioral effects) may be a useful pathological diagnostic symptom (American Psychiatric Association 1994). People likely to acquire tolerance to alcohol's behavioral effects in drinking situations where reliable cues, such as liquor bottles, signal alcohol availability. Research indicates that when alcohol is expected and received a social drinker may demonstrate behavioral tolerance while performing one task but not another. Other research suggests that technique commonly referred to as "mental rehearsal" can build tolerance as an alternative to actually performing a task after drinking alcohol. The techniques, often applied to improve motor skills in sports, involves imagining task performance before putting it into practice. Subjects in the cited studies drank repeated doses of alcohol and either mentally rehearsed a task with an imaginary reward for sober performance or actually practiced the task and received a reward for sober performance. After the treatments concluded and all groups performed the tasks after drinking alcohol, both the mental rehearsal and the task-practice groups displayed complete tolerance (i. e., no impairment) under the influence of alcohol.)

updated 12/12/16