Low-Dose Alcohol Effects on Measures of Inhibitory Control, Delay Discounting, and Risk-Taking

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The per se limit for alcohol intoxication in the USA is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 80 mg/100 ml. However, there is abundant evidence that skilled performance (e.g., information processing, motor coordination) is impaired at BACs well below this limit. By contrast, less is known regarding low-dose alcohol effects on impulsivity-related behaviors, including inhibitory control, delay discounting, and risk-taking. Here, we review the evidence to date regarding performance on behavioral impulsivity and decision-making tasks at BACs below the 80 mg/100 ml limit. Overall, below-limit doses of alcohol impair inhibitory control and increase risk-taking but do not affect delay discounting. Within each facet, alcohol effects were largely task-dependent. We discuss the results in relation to above-limit alcohol effects on these measures, as well as implications of these findings in terms of disadvantageous behavior at BACs below the legal level of intoxication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-84
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Addiction Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for this work was provided by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Grants R01AA021722 and R01AA018274 (MTF). The content of the article is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agency.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer International Publishing AG.


  • Alcohol
  • Delay discounting
  • Impulsivity
  • Inhibitory control
  • Low dose
  • Risk-taking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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