alcohol problems and others do not? Researchers have spent decades exploring factors that put some people at risk for alcohol problems and others do not? Researchers have spent decades exploring factors that put some people at risk for

Alcohol Tolerance May be Risk Factor for Alcohol Dependency

Why do some people develop alcohol problems and others do not? Researchers have spent decades exploring factors that put some people at risk for alcohol dependency. Several theories have emerged, including genetic risk factors, psychological risk factors, and social and behavioral risk factors. Tolerance to alcohol has also been examined as a potential pathway for alcohol dependency and addiction. But until now, the effects of acute tolerance to alcohol have not been looked at in a single episode of drinking. Because binge drinking is a significant problem for many individuals, it is important that acute tolerance be studied across various durations of alcohol consumption, including single episodes.

To accomplish this, Mark T. Fillmore of the Department of Psychology at the University of Kentucky conducted a study comparing the effects of a single episode of alcohol consumption between 20 binge drinkers at risk for acute tolerance and 20 nonrisk, casual drinkers. The participants were assessed after consuming moderate levels of alcohol on two separate occasions. Fillmore evaluated their motor coordination and time to recovery. He also assessed their level of inhibitory control, a factor that influences their ability to refuse another drink.

Fillmore found that the participants who were at risk for acute tolerance and had a history of binge drinking had far more motor coordination after moderate alcohol intake than the nonrisk participants. In fact, even though their motor skills were impaired slightly, they recovered back to normal levels of motor coordination long before their blood alcohol levels returned to normal. When he looked at inhibitory control, Fillmore found that both groups exhibited similar levels of impairment. But the at-risk drinkers were able to execute their actions better than nonrisk drinkers. This bias or tolerance could explain why at-risk drinkers, and binge drinkers in particular, continue to drink impulsively even when they experience drops in blood alcohol content. Fillmore added, “In sum, these findings highlight the importance of examining specific mechanisms of tolerance in relation to abuse potential.”

Fillmore, Mark T., and Jessica Weafer. Acute Tolerance to Alcohol in At-risk Binge Drinkers. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 26.4 (2012): 693-702. Print.

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  • reece

    February 1st, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    This makes so much sense. The tolerance levels that some people experience could indeed have a great deal of influence over whether or not they continue to drink. I know that I have a very low tolerance so any little bit of alcohol impairs me and even though I might think that I want to continue there is also a little off button in my brain that tells me to stop, this isn’t good, and I can. I am fortunate that I have this little switch because for those who don’t this is a really serious issue.

  • Leroy

    February 1st, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    Never too easy for high tolerance folk to stop is it? Drinking with a group of friends exhibits this the best. Because some people can take more than others and still remain fairly sober they would definitely be inclined to drink more and also to fall into the trap of dependence. Maybe tolerance isn’t such a good thing after all when it comes to alcohol.

    Drinking alone is a risk factor too. I have seen this with my friends and I dread falling into the same path.

  • cindy

    February 1st, 2013 at 10:49 PM

    two shots may not affect you the same way it does to me, but hey you’re consuming the same level of alcohol!

    and if you think you can get away with consuming a lot more because of your high tolerance then you are are only ingesting more alcohol which definitely isn’t a good thing!

  • Virginia

    February 2nd, 2013 at 4:54 AM

    As the child of an abusive drinker I can tell you that he would sometimes look like the most sober drunk that you have ever seen until something would set him off and that’s how you would know that he had probably been drinking all day.

    The thing baout alcoholics is that many of them have learned very manipulative ways into fooling people with their drinking so I am happy to see that studies are now being done that examine how they drink and why it is different with them than it is with other people.

    I am never sure that this kind of information will help anyone but the family because most of them don’t want treatment, it’s the family that hurts the most and usually needs the most healing.

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