Living in the here and now: interrelationships between impulsivity, mindfulness, and alcohol misuse

Abstract

Rationale

Impulsivity and mindfulness both emphasize orientation to the present, and both have been linked to alcohol misuse, but the relationship between the two is not clearly understood.

Objectives

The objectives of this study are to examine the relationships between elements of impulsivity and mindfulness and to examine both variables in relation to alcohol misuse.

Method

Young adults (N = 116) were assessed for alcohol use, mindfulness, and impulsivity using psychometrically validated measures.

Results

Numerous significant associations were present among the facets of impulsivity and mindfulness. All impulsivity facets and three facets of mindfulness were related to alcohol consumption and adverse consequences from drinking. After controlling for other variables, only the impulsivity domains of Negative Urgency (NU), Positive Urgency, and delay discounting were significantly related to alcohol consumption and only Lack of Premeditation and NU were significantly associated with drinking-related consequences.

Conclusions

There was considerable overlap between some elements of impulsivity and mindfulness while the overlap was negligible for other facets. The associations between mindfulness and alcohol misuse were entirely a function of impulsivity. In particular, acting on impulses while experiencing a negative affect was significantly associated with level of alcohol consumption and level of alcohol-related risk. Steep discounting of future rewards was associated with alcohol consumption while poor premeditation was associated with adverse drinking consequences. These findings illustrate the importance of jointly studying impulsivity when examining mindfulness traits.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Note that we use lower case designations for discussion different conceptual aspects of impulsivity, but capitalized designations when referring to specific scales on the UPPS-P or FFMQ, which are proper nouns.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to the following graduate and undergraduate research assistants who contributed to data collection: Monika Stojek, Brooke Blocker, Melanie Nembhard, and Evelyn French.

Funding

This study was supported by from the National Institutes of Health—K23 AA016936, K23 AA016936-S1, and P30 DA027827.

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Correspondence to James MacKillop.

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Murphy, C., MacKillop, J. Living in the here and now: interrelationships between impulsivity, mindfulness, and alcohol misuse. Psychopharmacology 219, 527–536 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-011-2573-0

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Keywords

  • Alcohol
  • Impulsivity
  • Mindfulness
  • Delay discounting
  • Urgency