Original Investigations Human Pharmacology


, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 271-278

First online:

Counteracting depressant effects of alcohol by psychological stress

  • Marianne FrankenhaeuserAffiliated withPsychological Laboratories, University of Stockholm
  • , Elizabeth DunneAffiliated withPsychological Laboratories, University of Stockholm
  • , Hans BjurströmAffiliated withPsychological Laboratories, University of Stockholm
  • , Ulf LundbergAffiliated withPsychological Laboratories, University of Stockholm

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Interaction between effects of acute alcohol intoxication and psychological stress was examined in 8 male and 8 female students. Alcohol was given as whisky, 2 ml/kg body wt to males and 1.7 ml/kg body wt to females. Psychological stress was induced by applying electric shocks of a moderate intensity to two fingers of one of the subject's hands. Performance in reaction-time tasks representing different levels of complexity, self-estimates of wakefulness and mood, measurements of catecholamine excretion and of heart rate, were used as indices of the effects caused by alcohol and shock, singly and in combination. Among these variables, only performance was selectively sensitive to the different experimental treatments. Thus, shocks and alcohol had opposite effects, shocks decreasing and alcohol increasing reaction time. When the subjects were simultaneously exposed to both influences, the impairment produced by alcohol was significantly reduced by shock at all levels of task complexity. No sex differences could be detected.

Key words

Drug-Behavior Interaction Alcohol Psychological Stress Electric Shock Psychomotor Performance