, Volume 231, Issue 11, pp 2273-2280,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 13 Dec 2013

Alcohol-induced risk taking on the BART mediates alcohol priming

Abstract

Rationale

Hazardous drinking has been associated with risk taking and alcohol priming effects. However, the potential relationship between risk taking and priming has not been investigated. The Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) is a behavioural measure of risk taking which appears to be associated with drinking behaviour. However, alcohol's acute effects on BART performance are not clear, and the potentially mediating effect of alcohol-induced risk taking on priming has not been tested.

Objectives

To assess the effects of a priming dose of alcohol on BART performance; to determine the predictive utility of the BART on drinking habits; and to identify whether alcohol-induced risk taking mediates alcohol priming (urge to drink).

Methods

A total of 142 participants provided data on drinking habits and trait-like impulsivity and sensation seeking. The BART was then completed after consuming alcohol (0.6 g/kg) or placebo (between-subjects design). Baseline and post-drink measures of alcohol urge were also taken.

Results

Alcohol consumption increased urge to drink (priming) and risk taking on the BART. In the alcohol group only, risk taking on the BART predicted unique variance in weekly alcohol consumption and bingeing. Mediation analysis showed that risk taking following alcohol consumption mediated alcohol priming.

Conclusions

This is the first study to show that alcohol acutely increases risk taking on the BART. Results suggest that social drinkers susceptible to alcohol-induced risk taking may be more likely to drink excessively, perhaps due to increased urge to drink (priming).