Gender specific effects of a mild stressor on alcohol cue reactivity in heavy social drinkers.Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2006 Feb; 83(2):239-48.PB
Stress plays an important role in the development and maintenance of alcohol-abuse. Some of the effects of stress on alcohol-related behaviours, however, appear to be gender-dependent.
The present study set out to examine the effects of stress on feelings of desire for alcohol, skin conductance response and alcohol consumption in the presence of alcohol-related cues in relation to gender. Participants were heavy non-dependent alcohol drinkers.
Thirty-two (16 males) participants drinking more than 21 units of alcohol per week were randomly allocated to undergo the experimental stress (based on the 'Trier Social Stress' Test) or the non-stress procedure before the alcohol cue exposure procedure, during which participants handled and smelled their preferred drink. Mood and saliva cortisol level changes were used as indices of the stress effects, while alcohol craving, skin conductance and alcohol consumption were the cue reactivity measures.
Self ratings of anxiety and tension increased and cortisol levels remained high in the stress compared to the non-stress condition; no gender differences were found. Stress induced gender-specific effects with regard to skin conductance response and alcohol consumption measurements. Stressed females did not show an increase from baseline in the skin conductance response during the alcohol cue-exposure session, which was observed in the non-stressed females; they also consumed less alcohol than males under stress.
Female participants respond less to alcohol-related cues when in a negative mood state. Such a finding suggests that females when in a negative mood may be less sensitive to positive incentive processes mediating cue reactivity compared to males.