Heightened Sensitivity to the Disinhibiting Effect of Alcohol in Women During the Late Follicular Phase of the Menstrual Cycle

Annie K. Griffith, Michelle M. Martel, Tory Eisenlohr-Moul, Mark T. Fillmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Compared with men, women are disproportionately affected by alcohol, including greater risks of physiological damage, behavioral impairment, and relapse. One likely mechanism underlying the sexual disparity in this vulnerability is the fluctuation of ovarian hormones, particularly estradiol (E2), across phases of the menstrual cycle. Several preclinical and clinical studies have shown that higher E2 levels positively correlate with drinking, suggesting E2 may play a significant role in modulating drinking. Inhibitory control also modulates drinking; when it is reduced or compromised by alcohol, the drinker’s ability to stop the self-administration of alcohol could be impaired, leading to a binge episode. The present study aimed to examine the degree to which menstrual cycle phase can influence the disinhibiting effect of alcohol. Twenty-four healthy young adult women participated in a within-subjects placebo-controlled study of the acute disinhibiting effect of 0.60 g/kg alcohol over the course of two test sessions. A cued go/no-go task measured the disinhibiting effects of alcohol and placebo beverages during the early follicular phase of the cycle when E2 levels were low and the late follicular phase (i.e., ovulation) when E2 was elevated. Results showed that the disinhibiting effect of alcohol increased nearly twofold during the late follicular phase when E2 was elevated. These findings highlight the role of alcohol-induced disinhibition as a potential behavioral mechanism by which fluctuations in ovarian hormones as a function of the menstrual cycle contribute to increased risk for excessive alcohol use in women.

Original languageEnglish
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Grants R01 AA027990 and T32 AA027488 and awarded to Mark T. Fillmore. This funding source had no role other than financial support. This publication was supported by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, through Grant UL1TR001998. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The study is registered as a Phase 1 clinical trial in https://clinicaltrials.gov NCT04595682, and data will be available. All authors contributed in a significant way to the article;all authors have read and approved the final article. The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose. This study was not preregistered.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Psychological Association


  • Alcohol
  • Disinhibition
  • Estradiol
  • Follicular phase
  • Menstrual cycle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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