Subjective Effects of Alcohol Predict Alcohol Choice in Social Drinkers

Jingfei Li, Conor H. Murray, Jessica Weafer, Harriet de Wit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Introduction: Alcohol is among the most commonly used psychoactive drugs, yet it can produce markedly different subjective effects in different people. Certain effects, including both heightened stimulatory effects and lesser sedative effects, are thought to predict repeated or excessive use. However, we do not fully understand the nature of these individual differences or their relationships to alcohol consumption. This controlled laboratory study examined subjective and physiologic responses to a moderate dose of alcohol in social drinkers in relation to the subjects’ decision to consume alcohol. Methods: Healthy adult volunteers (N = 95) participated in a 5-session double-blind alcohol choice study. On the first 4 sessions, they received alcohol (0.8 g/kg) and placebo in alternating order, and on the fifth session, they chose and consumed whichever of the 2 they preferred. During each session, participants completed the Profile of Mood States (POMS) and Biphasic Alcohol Effects Scale (BAES) questionnaires and had their vitals recorded every 30 minutes. We compared subjective and physiologic response to alcohol during the sampling sessions in participants who chose alcohol or placebo on session 5. Results: Of the 95 participants, 55 chose alcohol (choosers) and 40 chose placebo (nonchoosers). In the full sample, alcohol produced its expected effects (e.g., increased friendliness, elation, and vigor (POMS), and stimulation and sedation (BAES)). The chooser and nonchooser groups did not differ in demographic characteristics, blood alcohol levels, or cardiovascular measures. However, the choosers experienced greater alcohol-induced increases in positive mood (POMS) and liked the drug more, whereas the nonchoosers experienced greater anger, anxiety (POMS), and sedation (BAES) after alcohol. Conclusion: Both greater positive mood effects and lesser sedative effects after alcohol predicted preference under controlled conditions, suggesting that both factors can predict future consumption of alcohol.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2579-2587
Number of pages9
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the Research Society on Alcoholism


  • Alcohol
  • Drug Choice
  • Mood
  • Social Drinkers
  • Subjective Effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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