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Monday, May 17, 2010

Interactive Effects of Cumulative Stress and Impulsivity on Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol addiction may reflect adaptations to stress, reward, and regulatory brain systems. While extensive research has identified both stress and impulsivity as independent risk factors for drinking, few studies have assessed the interactive relationship between stress and impulsivity in terms of hazardous drinking within a community sample of regular drinkers.

One hundred and thirty regular drinkers (56M/74F) from the local community were assessed for hazardous and harmful patterns of alcohol consumption using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). All participants were also administered the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11) as a measure of trait impulsivity and the Cumulative Stress/Adversity Checklist (CSC) as a comprehensive measure of cumulative adverse life events. Standard multiple regression models were used to ascertain the independent and interactive nature of both overall stress and impulsivity as well as specific types of stress and impulsivity on hazardous and harmful drinking.

Recent life stress, cumulative traumatic stress, overall impulsivity, and nonplanning-related impulsivity as well as cognitive and motor-related impulsivity were all independently predictive of AUDIT scores. However, the interaction between cumulative stress and total impulsivity scores accounted for a significant amount of the variance, indicating that a high to moderate number of adverse events and a high trait impulsivity rating interacted to affect greater AUDIT scores. The subscale of cumulative life trauma accounted for the most variance in AUDIT scores among the stress and impulsivity subscales.

Findings highlight the interactive relationship between stress and impulsivity with regard to hazardous drinking. The specific importance of cumulative traumatic stress as a marker for problem drinking is also discussed.

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