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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2010 Nov 1;112(1-2):54-61. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.05.011. Epub 2010 Jun 30.

Risk-taking but not response inhibition or delay discounting predict alcohol consumption in social drinkers.

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School of Psychology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.


Impulsivity and risk-taking are multi-dimensional constructs that have been implicated in heavy drinking and alcohol problems. Our aim was to identify the specific component of impulsivity or risk-taking that explained the greatest variance in heavy and problem drinking among a sample of young adults recruited from a university population. Participants (N=75) completed a test battery comprising two commonly used response inhibition tasks (a Go/No-Go task and a Stop signal task), a delay discounting procedure, and the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) as a measure of risk-taking. Participants also completed the Barratt Impulsivity Scales (BIS) as a measure of trait impulsivity. In a hierarchical multiple regression model, risk-taking was identified as the only behavioural measure that predicted alcohol use and problems. In a secondary analysis, we demonstrated that risk-taking predicted unique variance in alcohol use and problems over and above that explained by trait impulsivity. Results suggest that among young adults, a behavioural measure of risk-taking predicts variance in alcohol consumption and alcohol problems, even when individual differences in trait impulsivity are statistically controlled. However, behavioural measures of response inhibition and delay discounting do not predict unique variance in alcohol use in young adult social drinkers.

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