Background: The results of previously published reports suggest that light and moderate drinkers respond differently to the effects of commonly abused sedatives (e.g., diazepam or ethanol). The purpose of this experiment was to determine whether light and moderate drinkers respond differentially to the effects of ethanol and d-amphetamine.
Methods: In the first phase of this experiment, volunteers (eight light drinkers and eight moderate drinkers) randomly sampled 0.5 g/kg of ethanol and placebo across two separate sessions. In the second phase, volunteers completed three sessions in which they chose either ethanol or placebo. In the third phase, volunteers received 0, 5, 10, and 15 mg of d-amphetamine. Each dose was tested twice. After drug administration in each phase, volunteers completed a battery of subject-rated, performance, and physiologic measures periodically for 5 hr.
Results: Ethanol produced prototypical subject-rated effects (e.g., increased ratings on the Alcohol Sensation Scale), but it was chosen over placebo infrequently. Light and moderate drinkers did not differ in terms of the self-reported or reinforcing effects of ethanol. d-Amphetamine produced prototypical subject-rated stimulant-like effects (e.g., dose-dependent increases in ratings of High and Rush). Moderate drinkers reported significantly greater drug effects than light drinkers. Responses to ethanol reliably predicted subsequent responses to d-amphetamine on several measures.
Conclusions: The results of this experiment suggest that even moderate ethanol use may increase an individual's vulnerability to abuse drugs. Future studies should determine whether light and moderate drinkers respond differentially to other commonly abused drugs (e.g., opioids) and whether behavioral responses to ethanol also predict responses to these compounds.