Category: Addictive Behaviors
Background: Research investigating the residual effects of alcohol (i.e., effects once blood alcohol content (BAC) has returned to zero) suggest some effect on cognitive tasks. In clinical samples, alcohol use disorder symptoms were associated with more conservative risk taking, and among college students alcohol consumption predicted greater risk taking. However, it is unclear how residual effects of “night before” drinking among social drinkers are associated with “morning after” risk taking. Would residual effects lend one to be more conservative or more risky in an analogue setting? Objective: We investigated student performance on a risk taking task on mornings after having consumed alcohol compared to mornings after abstaining from alcohol. We hypothesized that risk taking scores would differ significantly on mornings after drinking compared to mornings after abstaining.
Method: Participants were 10 students (Mage= 21.0 years, SD = 2.9; 40% males) enrolled at a midwestern science and technology university. The study was a mixed model, repeated measures design conducted over eight weeks. Participants completed sessions twice a week during which they reported the number of standard alcoholic drinks consumed the night prior and completed the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART), an objective measure of risk-taking. In the BART, participants are shown a balloon and can inflate it to gain money with each pump. They can choose at any time to cash out. The balloon has a chance to pop at any given pump, and if it pops the participant cannot cash in the funds.
Results: An independent t-test was conducted to compare BART scores for drinkers and abstainers. Results revealed a significant difference in scores for drinkers (M=5.19; SD=1.15) compared to abstainers (M=4.21; SD=0.81) [t (137) = -5.78, p < .001] suggesting that drinkers engaged in more risk taking than abstainers. When data analysis were restricted to drinkers only, neither a paired t-test or a repeated measures ANOVA revealed any significant difference in BART scores on mornings after drinking compared to mornings after abstaining.
Discussion: College student drinkers scored significantly higher on a risk taking task compared to student abstainers. However, contrary to our hypothesis there was no significant difference on risk taking scores among drinkers on mornings after drinking versus after abstaining. It is important to note, however, that data collection is ongoing and this sample is underpowered. Current data collection includes morning after breathalyzer samples, occurs during a celebratory specific event, and includes weekend data. Inclusion of these data may clarify the relation between college drinkers and risk taking and, if so, add to our understanding of the relation between the "night before" drinking and "morning after" decision making.