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Keywords:

  • Alcohol;
  • delay discounting;
  • drinking and driving;
  • impulsivity

Abstract

Aims

Although drink drivers exhibit higher levels of trait impulsivity, no studies have tested the hypothesis that drink drivers experience increased impulsivity while intoxicated. We tested this hypothesis for two impulsivity constructs: delay discounting and behavioral inhibition.

Design

A within-subjects study comparing performance of drink drivers and non-drink drivers on behavioral measures of impulsivity in alcohol and no-beverage sessions.

Setting

A laboratory setting at the University of Missouri.

Participants

Twenty-nine young adults who were at least moderate drinkers were recruited from the local community and the University of Missouri.

Measurements

Impulsivity was assessed using the Two Choice Impulsivity Paradigm (TCIP) and the Stop-Signal Task. Participants also completed self-report measures of binge drinking and trait impulsivity.

Findings

In the no-beverage session, TCIP impulsive choices did not differ between drinking and driving groups (P = 0.93). In the alcohol session, drink drivers made more TCIP impulsive choices on both the ascending (P < 0.01) and descending limb (P < 0.01) of the blood alcohol concentration curve than their peers who did not drink and drive. Drinking and driving groups did not differ on the Stop-Signal Task. Supplementary analyses indicated that effects for the TCIP were not explained by individual differences in trait impulsivity.

Conclusions

Individuals who report having three or more drinks before driving show greater impulsivity when under the influence of alcohol than those who do not report heavy drinking before driving.