Category: Addictive Behaviors
Self-control has been shown to be a longitudinal predictor of many health risk and protective behaviors, including alcohol use. The dual process model of self-control posits qualitatively different bottom-up “bad” self-control, which can be thought of as an impulse that undermines one’s long-term goals, and top-down “good” self-control, which requires abilities such as inhibition, planning, and delay of gratification. Subjective response to alcohol is also an important predictor of future drinking and may contribute to the bottom-up impulsivity that undermines good self-control while drinking. Therefore, the current study sought to examine potential interactions between laboratory subjective response and self-control in predicting drinking outcomes. We hypothesized that self-control would interact with subjective high (e.g., excited) and low (e.g., relaxed) arousal positive effects of alcohol, and that this interaction would depend on beverage condition (alcohol vs. placebo). More specifically, participants who experience greater subjective positive effects of alcohol and are low in good self-control were expected to report the highest alcohol use. 303 young adults in a laboratory alcohol administration study provided self-report data on past 30-day alcohol use, self-control behavior, and subjective response upon consumption of alcohol (n=181) or placebo (n=122). Gender, social context (alone vs. group), and physical context (lab vs. bar) were used as covariates. A multigroup model by beverage condition revealed a marginally significant interaction between low arousal positive effects and self-control (b=.355, SE=.190, p=.061), but only in the alcohol condition. In the placebo condition, the interaction did not approach significance (b=.030, SE=.196, p=.879). Contrary to hypotheses, those who reported weak low arousal positive effects and low self-control were the heaviest drinkers. Interactions between self-control and high arousal positive effects were not significant in either the alcohol (b=.008, SE=.140, p=.953) or placebo condition (b=.335, SE=.357 p=.348). While we hypothesized that people who perceive the greatest positive effects of alcohol and lack top-down self-control would drink the most, our results suggest that, in fact, those who experience few relaxing effects of alcohol and are low in self-control drink the most. These results are theoretically consistent with the Low Level of Response model of alcohol use (Schuckit, 1994), which indicates that people who receive weaker effects of alcohol are at the highest risk for alcohol problems because they drink more to get the same subjective effects as others. This patterns of subjective response may be compounded by poor self-control capacity.