Drinking status but not acute alcohol consumption influences delay discounting

Sally Adams, Angela S. Attwood, Marcus R Munafò

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The aim of this study was to investigate the following: (a) the effects of acute alcohol on delay discounting; (b) the effects of drinking status on delayed discounting; and (c) whether these effects differ according to reward type (alcohol vs. money).

Heavy and light social alcohol users (n = 96) were randomized to receive either an acute dose of alcohol at 0.4 or 0.6 g/kg or placebo in a between-subjects, double-blind design. Delay discounting of alcohol and monetary rewards was measured using a hyperbolic model, with higher scores indicative of greater delay discounting.

ANOVA of discount scores indicated a main effect of reward type, where all participants had higher discount scores for alcohol versus money rewards. A main effect of drinking status was also observed, where heavier drinkers had higher discount scores compared with lighter drinkers. We did not observe a main effect of acute alcohol use on delay discounting or the hypothesized interactions between acute alcohol use and drinking status with reward type.

Our data suggest that heavier drinkers discount the value of delayed rewards more steeply than lighter drinkers. Delay discounting may therefore be a promising marker of heavy alcohol consumption in social drinkers.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2617
Number of pages6
JournalHuman Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2017


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