Family History of Problem Drinking Is Associated With Less Sensitivity of Alcohol Demand to a Next-Day Responsibility
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OBJECTIVE: Behavioral economic demand curves measure alcohol consumption as a function of price and may capture clinically relevant individual differences in alcohol-reinforcing efficacy. This study used a novel, behavioral-economic, hypothetical demand-curve paradigm to examine the association between family history of alcohol misuse and individual differences in both alcohol demand and the relative sensitivity of alcohol demand to next-day responsibilities. METHOD: Participants were 207 college students (47% male, 68.5% White, 27.4% African American, Mage = 19.5 years) who reported at least one heavy drinking episode (5/4 or more drinks on one occasion for a man/woman) in the past month and completed two versions of an alcohol purchase task (APT) that assessed hypothetical alcohol consumption across 17 drink prices. In one APT (standard), students imagined they had no next-day responsibilities, and in the other, they imagined having a 10:00 a.m. test the next day. RESULTS: A series of analyses of covariance indicated that participants with at least one biological parent or grandparent who had misused alcohol reported similar levels of alcohol demand on the standard APT but significantly less sensitivity to the next-day academic responsibility as measured by the percentage of reduction in demand intensity and breakpoint across the no-responsibility and next-day-test conditions. CONCLUSIONS: These findings provide initial evidence that APTs might clarify one potential mechanism of risk conferred by family history. Young adult heavy drinkers with a family history of problematic drinking may be less sensitive to next-day responsibilities that might modulate drinking in drinkers without a family history of alcohol problems.
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