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Keywords:

  • Response to Alcohol;
  • African American;
  • Racial Differences;
  • Alcohol Administration

Background

Response to alcohol is a widely studied risk factor and potential endophenotype for alcohol use disorders. Research on African American response to alcohol has been limited despite large differences in alcohol use between African Americans and European Americans. Extending our previous work on the African American portion of this sample, the current study examined differences in acute subjective response to alcohol between African Americans and European Americans. Additionally, we tested whether the association between response to alcohol and past month drinking behavior and alcohol-related problems differed across race.

Methods

One hundred and seventy-eight participants (mean age = 21.87, SD = 1.23; 57% African American) who were moderate to heavy social drinkers completed an alcohol administration study in a laboratory setting, receiving a moderate dose of alcohol (0.72 g/kg alcohol for men, 0.65 g/kg for women). Acute alcohol response was measured at 8 time points (i.e., baseline, 15, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 150 minutes).

Results

Latent growth curve models showed that African Americans experienced sharper increases in stimulation on the ascending limb compared to European Americans. African American women experienced sharper increases in sedation on the ascending limb compared to European American women. Change in sedation on the ascending limb was associated with past month drinking behavior. Stimulation on the ascending limb was related to alcohol problems for African Americans but not European Americans.

Conclusions

We found differences in response to alcohol across racial groups: African Americans showed a stronger response to alcohol. Future studies are needed to incorporate response to alcohol into a larger model of African American alcohol use.