Reduced acute recovery from alcohol impairment in adults with ADHD

Walter Roberts, Richard Milich, Mark T. Fillmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Rationale: Prior research has found that adults with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) show increased sensitivity to the impairing effects of alcohol (Weafer et al., Exp Clin Psychopharmacol 17: 113-121, 2009). However, these studies have focused exclusively on the ascending limb of the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) curve, and it is unclear whether these adults continue to show increased sensitivity during the later phase of the dose as BAC is declining. Objective: This study tested the hypothesis that those with ADHD would display increased response to alcohol during the ascending limb of the BAC curve and less recovery from the impairing effects during the descending limb. Methods: Adult social drinkers with ADHD and control adults completed measures of motor coordination, reaction time (RT), and subjective intoxication twice following 0.64 g/kg alcohol and placebo. The measures were administered during the ascending limb of the BAC curve and again during the descending limb. Results: During the ascending limb, alcohol reduced motor coordination, slowed RT, and increased self-reports of subjective intoxication. Those with ADHD displayed greater impairment of motor coordination compared with controls. During the descending limb, controls reported diminished subjective intoxication and showed recovery from the impairing effects of alcohol on both their motor coordination and their RT. Those with ADHD showed reduced subjective intoxication and faster RT during this time, but they did not recover motor control. Conclusions: The protracted time course of motor impairment in adults with ADHD despite reductions in subjective intoxication may contribute to poor decision making and diminished behavioral control in this group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-74
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This research was supported by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism grant R01 AA018274. The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.


  • ADHD
  • Acute recovery
  • Alcohol impairment
  • At-risk drinkers
  • Motor control
  • Response time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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