According to a new study, people who reported having problems with alcohol are actually more risk averse than their non-using counterparts. James R. Ashenhurst, J. David Jentsch, and Lara A. Ray, of the University of California, Los Angeles, enlisted 152 self-reported heavy drinkers, who were neither in treatment nor diagnosed with a psychological problem, for a study to assess the relationship of risky behavior taking in people with alcohol use disorders (AUD). The participants were all between the ages of 21 and 65 and reported consuming a minimum of 48 drinks each month. At baseline, nearly three quarters of the participants were categorized as being alcohol dependent, while over 15 percent had symptoms that placed them at risk for alcohol dependence. The correlation of risky behavior and AUD is significant because “Risk taking reflects the ability of an individual to weigh costs and benefits during decision-making with potentially negative outcomes.”
The participants performed the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART), which required them to inflate a balloon for a monetary reward, with the risk of overinflating, resulting in a balloon pop which yielded no money. They had to determine how much risk they would take in order to receive the reward. Throughout 72 separate trials, the participants exploded their balloons an average of just over 17 times. Contrary to previous studies, the findings in this study revealed that those with AUD exhibited more conservative behaviors. The researchers also adjusted for IQ and age, and believe that these two specific factors had a significant impact on their findings. “Together, these results suggest that among individuals with AUD, higher risk-taking propensity, measured by the BART, is associated with lower symptom count, but that IQ and age account for a substantial proportion of the variance in BART performance and ultimately mediate this association,” said the team. “Thus, to fully understand the relationship between risk-taking and AUD symptomatology, age and IQ must be taken into account.”
Ashenhurst, J. R., Jentsch, J. D., & Ray, L. A. (2011, June 27). Risk-Taking and Alcohol Use Disorders Symptomatology in a Sample of Problem Drinkers. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024412
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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