Stress response dampening: effects of gender and family history of alcoholism and anxiety disorders.Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1998; 137(4):311-20P
One hundred and fifteen non-alcoholic social drinkers, ages 21-30 years, were selected on the basis of parental history of alcoholism and/or anxiety disorders to participate in a laboratory study of stress response dampening (SRD) effects of alcohol. The following four risk groups were identified based on the diagnoses of both parents: 1) alcoholism (ALC+), (2) alcoholism and anxiety disorder (ALCANX+), (3) anxiety (ANX+), and (4) no psychiatric diagnoses (FH-). Subjects were randomly assigned to receive a placebo or alcohol (0.85 g/kg) beverage, following which cardiovascular measures and self-reports of anxiety were monitored prior to, during and after a speech stressor. Women with a family history of alcoholism and women with a family history of anxiety disorders showed strong SRD effects of alcohol on heart rate and pulse transit time. Men with a family history of anxiety disorders showed evidence of increased subjective response to stress during the alcohol beverage condition. Finally, SRD effects of alcohol were not found for male subjects, and this was attributed to their heavier drinking histories and lower breath alcohol levels as compared to women. Implications of the SRD effects in women are discussed in the context of the comorbid association between alcoholism and anxiety disorders.