Drinks, Drugs, and Demeanor

Kevin Lewis

March 09, 2010

The Big, the Bad, and the Boozed-Up: Weight Moderates the Effect of Alcohol on Aggression

Nathan DeWall, Brad Bushman, Peter Giancola & Gregory Webster
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Most people avoid the "big, drunk guy" in bars because they don't want to get assaulted. Is this stereotype supported by empirical evidence? Unfortunately, no scientific work has investigated this topic. Based on the recalibrational theory of anger and embodied cognition theory, we predicted that heavier men would behave the most aggressively when intoxicated. In two independent experiments (Ns= 553 and 327, respectively), participants consumed either alcohol or placebo beverages and then completed an aggression task in which they could administer painful electric shocks to a fictitious opponent. Both experiments showed that weight interacted with alcohol and gender to predict the highest amount of aggression among intoxicated heavy men. The results suggest that an embodied cognition approach is useful in understanding intoxicated aggression. Apparently there is a kernel of truth in the stereotype of the "big, drunk, aggressive guy."


Pregaming: An Exploratory Study of Strategic Drinking by College Students in Pennsylvania

William DeJong, Beth DeRicco & Shari Kessel Schneider
Journal of American College Health, January-February 2010, Pages 307-316

Objectives: This exploratory study examined pre-event drinking, or pregaming, by US college students. Participants: 112 undergraduates from 10 Pennsylvania colleges participated. Method: A focus group, including a written questionnaire, was conducted at each institution.

Results: Only 35.7% of the participants had not pregamed during the last 2 weeks. Pregamers consumed an average of 4.9 (SD = 3.1) drinks during their most recent session. Gender, class year, and other demographic variables did not predict pregaming. Heavier drinkers, and those stating that the average student pregamed 3+ times in the last 2 weeks, were more likely to report pregaming in the last 2 weeks. How much students drink when pregaming is influenced by how much they expect to drink later on.

Conclusion: Pregaming presents a growing challenge for campus officials. Additional research is needed on the nature of the problem and which combination of prevention strategies might best address this behavior.


Neural Mechanisms of Reproduction in Females as a Predisposing Factor for Drug Addiction

Valerie Hedges, Nancy Staffend & Robert Meisel
Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, forthcoming

There is an increasing awareness that adolescent females differ from males in their response to drugs of abuse and consequently in their vulnerability to addiction. One possible component of this vulnerability to drug addiction is the neurobiological impact that reproductive physiology and behaviors have on the mesolimbic dopamine system, a key neural pathway mediating drug addiction. In this review, we examine animal models that address the impact of ovarian cyclicity, sexual affiliation, sexual behavior, and maternal care on the long-term plasticity of the mesolimbic dopamine system. The thesis is that this plasticity in synaptic neurotransmission stemming from an individual's normal life history contributes to the pathological impact of drugs of abuse on the neurobiology of this system. Hormones released during reproductive cycles have only transient effects on these dopamine systems, whereas reproductive behaviors produce a persistent sensitization of dopamine release and postsynaptic neuronal responsiveness. Puberty itself may not represent a neurobiological risk factor for drug abuse, but attendant behavioral experiences may have a negative impact on females engaging in drug use.


Adolescent ethanol exposure: Does it produce long-lasting electrophysiological effects?

Cindy Ehlers & José Criado
Alcohol, January 2010, Pages 27-37

This review discusses evidence for long-lasting neurophysiological changes that may occur following exposure to ethanol during adolescent development in animal models. Adolescence is the time that most individuals first experience ethanol exposure, and binge drinking is not uncommon during adolescence. If alcohol exposure is neurotoxic to the developing brain during adolescence, not unlike it is during fetal development, then understanding how ethanol affects the developing adolescent brain becomes a major public health issue. Adolescence is a critical time period when cognitive, emotional, and social maturation occurs and it is likely that ethanol exposure may affect these complex processes. To study the effects of ethanol on adolescent brain, animal models where the dose and time of exposure can be carefully controlled that closely mimic the human condition are needed. The studies reviewed provide evidence that demonstrates that relatively brief exposure to high levels of ethanol, via ethanol vapors, during a period corresponding to parts of adolescence in the rat is sufficient to cause long-lasting changes in functional brain activity. Disturbances in waking electroencephalogram and a reduction in the P3 component of the event-related potential (ERP) have been demonstrated in adult rats that were exposed to ethanol vapor during adolescence. Adolescent ethanol exposure was also found to produce long-lasting reductions in the mean duration of slow-wave sleep (SWS) episodes and the total amount of time spent in SWS, a finding consistent with a premature aging of sleep. Further studies are necessary to confirm these findings, in a range of strains, and to link those findings to the neuroanatomical and neurochemical mechanisms potentially underlying the lasting effects of adolescent ethanol exposure.


Trends in Alcohol Consumption Among Undergraduate Students at a Northeastern Public University, 2002-2008

Sandra Minor Bulmer, Syed Irfan, Raymond Mugno, Barbara Barton & Louise Ackerman
Journal of American College Health, January-February 2010, Pages 383-390

Objective: This study examined alcohol consumption patterns and trends at a public university in the Northeast from 2002 to 2008. Participants: Stratified random sampling was used to select undergraduate students enrolled in courses during spring semesters in 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008.

Methods: Data were collected during regularly scheduled classes for 4 measures of alcohol consumption and 5 demographic categories using the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey.

Results: Four groups showed significant increases in both frequency and volume of alcohol consumption - students who were female, over 21 years of age or over, living off-campus, or performing well academically. There were no decreasing trends for any demographic group. These results differ from national college health surveys, which have shown alcohol use remaining steady during this period.

Conclusions: Campus-specific trend data can provide unique perspectives and guide programming efforts. These trends suggest a need for new intervention strategies on this campus.


Waterpipe and Cigarette Smoking Among College Athletes in the United States

Brian Primack, Carl Fertman, Kristen Rice, Anna Adachi-Mejia & Michael Fine
Journal of Adolescent Health, January 2010, Pages 45-51

Purpose: Tobacco use using a waterpipe is an emerging trend among college students. Although cigarette smoking is low among college athletes, waterpipe tobacco smoking may appeal to this population. The purpose of this study was to compare cigarette and waterpipe tobacco smoking in terms of their associations with organized sport participation.

Methods: In the spring of 2008, we conducted an online survey of 8,745 college students at eight institutions as part of the revised National College Health Assessment. We used multivariable regression models to assess the associations between tobacco use (cigarette and waterpipe) and organized sports participation.

Results: Participants reported participation in varsity (5.2%), club (11.9%), and intramural (24.9%) athletics. Varsity athletes and individuals who were not varsity athletes had similar rates of waterpipe tobacco smoking (27.6% vs. 29.5%, p = .41). However, other types of athletes were more likely than their counterparts to have smoked waterpipe tobacco (35.1% vs. 28.7%, p < .001 for club sports and 34.8% vs. 27.7%, p < .001 for intramural sports). In fully-adjusted multivariable models, sports participants of any type had lower odds of having smoked cigarettes, whereas participants who played intramural sports (odds ratio = 1.15, 95% confidence interval = 1.03, 1.29) or club sports (odds ratio = 1.15, 95% confidence interval = 1.001, 1.33) had significantly higher odds of having smoked waterpipe tobacco.

Conclusions: College athletes are susceptible to waterpipe tobacco use. In fact, compared with their nonathletic counterparts, club sports participants and intramural sports participants generally had higher odds of waterpipe tobacco smoking. Allure for waterpipe tobacco smoking may exist even for individuals who are traditionally considered at low risk for tobacco use.


Beavers, Bubbles, Bees, and Moths: An Examination of Animated Spokescharacters in DTC Prescription-Drug Advertisements and Websites

Kartik Pashupati
Journal of Advertising Research, September 2009, Pages 373-393

Several prescription drug brands use animated characters in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising. This article draws on the literature on spokescharacters to address four research questions: 1) What different types of animated spokescharacters are used in DTC advertising? 2) How are prescription drug marketers using spokescharacters in DTC advertising? 3) To what extent are these characters integrated into the websites for these brands? 4) Is there any evidence that the use of animated spokescharacters enhances advertising effectiveness? Animated characters are used in various ways, such as the symbol of a disease, a victim, or as the mechanism of action. Brands vary greatly in their integration of spokescharacters into DTC websites. Evidence from secondary data indicates that brands using spokescharacters perform better than average in recall and in brand-association tests.


Pilot Study of Inducing Smoking Cessation Attempts by Activating a Sense of Looming Vulnerability

David McDonald, Jennifer O'Brien, Emily Farr & David Haaga
Addictive Behaviors, forthcoming

Despite widespread knowledge of the negative health consequences of cigarette smoking, in 2007 a majority (60%) of daily smokers in the USA did not make a quit attempt lasting at least 24 hours. Drawing on Riskind's looming cognitive vulnerability model of anxiety, we developed a guided imagery induction intended to increase smokers' perceived susceptibility to the consequences of continued smoking and thereby to increase quit attempts. In a pilot study of this induction, 72 adult daily smokers were randomly assigned to the looming imagery condition or to a control condition exposed to guided imagery that did not concern smoking or its dangers. Those in the looming condition reported significantly higher state anxiety and highly accessible negative outcome expectancies for smoking immediately after the induction, and a significantly lower smoking rate in the month after the experiment. Nonsignificant trends favored the looming condition also for increasing contemplation of quitting, self-efficacy for abstaining from cigarettes, intrinsic motivation to quit as a function of health concerns, and most importantly the likelihood of making a quit attempt in the month following the experiment. Further development and testing of the looming induction as a way to motivate quit attempts is warranted.


A Quasi-Experimental Study of Maternal Smoking During Pregnancy and Offspring Academic Achievement

Brian D'Onofrio, Amber Singh, Anastasia Iliadou, Mats Lambe, Christina Hultman, Jenae Neiderhiser, Niklas Långström & Paul Lichtenstein
Child Development, January/February 2010, Pages 80-100

The current study, based on all births in Sweden from 1983 to 1991 (N = 654,707), explored the processes underlying the association between smoking during pregnancy (SDP) and offspring school grades and mathematic proficiency at age 15. The analyses compared relatives who varied in their exposure to SDP and who varied in their genetic relatedness. Although SDP was statistically associated with academic achievement (AA) when comparing unrelated individuals, the results suggest that SDP does not cause poorer academic performance, as full siblings differentially exposed to SDP did not differ in their academic scores. The pattern of results suggests that genetic factors shared by parents and their offspring help explain why offspring exposed to SDP have lower levels of AA.


Adolescent Exposure to Alcohol Advertising in Magazines: An Evaluation of Advertising Placement in Relation to Underage Youth Readership

Charles King, Michael Siegel, David Jernigan, Laura Wulach, Craig Ross, Karen Dixon & Joshua Ostroff
Journal of Adolescent Health, December 2009, Pages 626-633

Purpose: To investigate whether alcoholic beverages popular among underage youths are more likely than those less popular among these youths to be advertised in magazines with high underage youth readerships.

Methods: We compared the alcohol advertisement placement in 118 magazines during the period 2002 to 2006 for alcoholic beverages popular among youths to that of alcoholic beverages less likely to be consumed by youths. Using a random effects probit model, we examined the relationship between a magazine's youth (ages 12-20) readership and the probability of youth or nonyouth alcoholic beverage types being advertised in a magazine, controlling for young adult (ages 21-34) readership, cost of advertising, and other factors.

Results: Youth alcoholic beverage types were significantly more likely to be advertised in magazines with higher youth readership. Holding all other variables constant, the ratio of the probability of a youth alcoholic beverage type being advertised to that of a nonyouth alcoholic beverage type being advertised in a given magazine increased from 1.5 to 4.6 as youth readership increased from 0% to 40%. In magazines with the highest levels of youth readership, youth alcoholic beverage types were more than four times more likely to be advertised than nonyouth alcoholic beverage types.

Conclusions: Alcoholic beverages popular among underage youths are more likely than those less popular among youths to be advertised in magazines with high youth readerships.


The association between executive functioning and motivation to enter treatment among regular users of heroin and/or cocaine in Baltimore, MD

Stevan Geoffrey Severtson, Sarah von Thomsen, Sarra Hedden & William Latimer
Addictive Behaviors, forthcoming

This study explored the association between readiness to enter treatment and performance on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), a measure of problem solving ability and executive functioning. Data for this analysis was collected on 258 current regular users of heroin and/or cocaine as part of an epidemiologic study on executive function and drug use. A structural equation model was used to test the hypotheses that poorer performance on the WCST would predict lower scores on two latent constructs measuring motivation to change drug use. Specifically, poorer performance on the WCST was associated with lower recognition of problem use. Associations between treatment enrollment within the past six months and regular use of more than one drug were also observed. Findings highlight the importance of considering cognitive impairment in programs targeting active drug users and promoting treatment participation.


Delay discounting in current and former marijuana-dependent individuals

Matthew Johnson, Warren Bickel, Forest Baker, Brent Moore, Gary Badger & Alan Budney
Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, February 2010, Pages 99-107

Studies have found that a variety of drug-dependent groups discount delayed rewards more than matched controls. This study compared delay discounting for a hypothetical $1,000 reward among dependent marijuana users, former dependent marijuana users, and matched controls. Discounting of marijuana was also assessed in the currently marijuana-dependent group. No significant differences in discounting were detected among the groups; however, currently dependent users showed a trend to discount money more than the other 2 groups. Within the dependent marijuana group, marijuana was discounted more than money, and discounting for money and marijuana was significantly and positively correlated. Regression analyses indicated that delay discounting was more closely associated with tobacco use than marijuana use. A variety of questionnaires were also administered, including impulsivity questionnaires. Dependent marijuana users scored as significantly more impulsive on the Impulsiveness subscale of the Eysenck Impulsiveness-Venturesomeness-Empathy questionnaire than controls. However, the 3 groups did not significantly differ on several other personality questionnaires, including the Barratt Impulsivity Scale-11. The Stanford Time Perception Inventory Present-Fatalistic subscale was positively correlated with money and marijuana discounting, indicating that a greater sense of powerlessness over the future is related to greater delay discounting. Results suggest that current marijuana dependence may be associated with a trend toward increased delay discounting, but this effect size appears to be smaller for marijuana than for previously examined drugs.


from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.