Behavioral components of impulsivity predict alcohol consumption in adults with ADHD and healthy controls

Jessica Weafer, Richard Milich, M. T. Fillmore Mark T.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Background: The degree to which distinct behavioral components of impulsivity predict alcohol consumption is as yet not well-understood. Further, the possibility that this relation might be more pronounced in groups characterized by heightened impulsivity (i.e., individuals with ADHD) has not been tested. Methods: The current study examined the degree to which three specific behavioral components of impulsivity (i.e., poor response inhibition, poor attentional inhibition, and increased risk-taking) were associated with quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption in a group of young adult social drinkers with ADHD (n= 33) and in a comparison control group (n= 21). Participants performed the delayed ocular return task (attentional inhibition), the cued go/no-go task (behavioral inhibition), and the balloon analogue risk task (risk-taking). Results: Both poor behavioral inhibition and greater risk-taking were related to greater quantity of consumption in the entire sample, whereas poor attentional inhibition was related to greater quantity specifically among those with ADHD. By contrast, only risk-taking was associated with frequency of consumption, and this was found specifically in the control group. Conclusions: These findings provide important information regarding the potential role of distinct behavioral components of impulsivity in drinking behavior, and highlight unique relevance of attentional impairments to drinking behavior in those with ADHD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-146
Number of pages8
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jan 15 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by Award Number R21 DA021027 and Award Number DA005312 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse , and by Grant R01 AA012895 , R01 AA012874 , and F31 AA018584 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism . The NIDA and the NIAAA had no further role in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the paper for publication. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIAAA or the National Institutes of Health.


  • ADHD
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Behavioral impulsivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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