Alcohol-Related Cues Potentiate Alcohol Impairment of Behavioral Control in Drinkers

Jessica Weafer, Mark T. Fillmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The acute impairing effects of alcohol on inhibitory control are well-established, and these disinhibiting effects are thought to play a role in its abuse potential. Alcohol impairment of inhibitory control is typically assessed in the context of arbitrary cues, yet drinking environments are comprised of an array of alcohol-related cues that are thought to influence drinking behavior. Recent evidence suggests that alcohol-related stimuli reduce behavioral control in sober drinkers, suggesting that alcohol impairment of inhibitory control might be potentiated in the context of alcohol cues. The current study tested this hypothesis by examining performance on the attentional-bias behavioral activation (ABBA) task that measures the degree to which alcohol-related stimuli can reduce inhibition of inappropriate responses in a between-subjects design. Social drinkers (N = 40) performed the task in a sober condition, and then again following placebo (0.0 g/kg) and a moderate dose of alcohol (0.65 g/kg) in counterbalanced order. Inhibitory failures were greater following alcohol images compared to neutral images in sober drinkers, replicating previous findings with the ABBA task. Moreover, alcohol-related cues exacerbated alcohol impairment of inhibitory control as evidenced by more pronounced alcohol-induced disinhibition following alcohol cues compared to neutral cues. Finally, regression analyses showed that greater alcohol-induced disinhibition following alcohol cues predicted greater self-reported alcohol consumption. These findings have important implications regarding factors contributing to binge or "loss of control" drinking. That is, the additive effect of disrupted control mechanisms via both alcohol cues and the pharmacological effects of the drug could compromise an individual's control over ongoing alcohol consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-299
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Psychological Association.


  • alcohol
  • alcohol cues
  • behavioral control
  • cued go/no-go task
  • inhibition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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