Previous studies have demonstrated relations between behavioral undercontrol (e.g., sensation seeking) and higher levels of alcohol use. The mechanism underlying this relation is not yet understood. In this article, we investigate the role of subjective stimulant and sedative effects of intoxication on drinking habits, and we test the possibility that these effects mediate or moderate relations between behavioral undercontrol and drinking habits.
College drinkers (n = 91) consumed 0.85 ml/kg of alcohol (approximately four drinks) and completed self-report measures of stimulation and sedation at three time points: (1) before drinking; (2) 15 min after consumption, on the ascending limb of the blood alcohol curve; and (3) 45 min after consumption, on the descending limb of the curve. In addition, participants completed the MacAndrew Alcoholism and Sensation Seeking Scales, indices of behavioral undercontrol, and a self-report questionnaire of drinking habits (quantity, frequency, and maximum).
As expected, undercontrol was strongly related to drinking habits (p < 0.0005). Undercontrol was also significantly related to ascending limb stimulation (< 0.005), which, in turn, was related to drinking habits (p < 0.005). Finally, stimulation was found to moderate the relations between undercontrol and drinking habits such that relations were stronger at higher levels of stimulation.
These findings may help to better understand the variability in drinking behavior, and this may be critical in eventually developing and appropriately targeting prevention efforts.