Background: The goal of this study was to examine the latent structure among measures of alcohol-induced subjective feelings of intoxication from a behavioral pharmacology perspective.
Methods: Data on subjective intoxication, measured concomitantly by the Subjective High Assessment Scale, Biphasic Alcohol Effect Scale, and the Short Version of the Profile of Mood States, were collected at 3 levels of breath alcohol concentration during an alcohol administration study in a sample of heavy drinkers (n = 135).
Results: Results of exploratory factor analyses supported a 3-factor model which captured the following dimensions of subjective intoxication: (1) stimulation and other pleasant effects, (2) sedative and unpleasant effects, and (3) alleviation of tension and negative mood. The tension-reduction factor was most consistently associated with more frequent drinking and alcohol problems in this sample.
Conclusions: These findings support the notion that the neuropharmacological and behavioral effects of alcohol are multifaceted and cannot be simply defined as either positive or negative. Rather, moderate levels of intoxication appear to have concomitant dimensions of positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and punishment. This study also suggests that factor scores may be useful in future alcohol administration studies to reduce the number of comparisons and perhaps increase statistical power to detect meaningful effects.