Alcohol Dependence and Responsivity to an Ethanol Stimulus as Predictors of Alcohol Consumption*


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    This work was supported in part by Alcohol Research Center Grant #I-P50-AA-03510-01A1 and Grant # 1-T32–AA-07290–01A1 from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


Withdrawal symptoms during the previous 30 days were examined in relation to psychophysiological arousal, desire to drink, and operant behavior associated with alcohol consumption. The subjects were 16 male alcoholic patients and 16 control subjects that had been randomly assigned to either an alcohol or placebo condition. Alcoholics showed a greater desire to drink than their respective controls. There was also a significant correlation between autonomic arousal and desire to drink among alcoholics but not controls. There was some evidence that arousal was related to alcohol dependence among alcoholics. Placebo responding among alcoholics was also related to alcohol dependence. Of particular significance was that desire to drink, withdrawal symptomatology, and heart rate accounted for over 57% of the variance in predicting which alcoholics would choose the drink reward following the operant task. These results support the notion that disposition to drink in alcoholics should be examined in a multivariate context.