Impaired Inhibitory Control as a Mechanism of Drug Abuse

  • Mark T. Fillmore
  • Jessica Weafer


Much research on drug abuse has sought to identify unique behavioral characteristics of individuals who abuse drugs to determine if such characteristics might actually contribute to the etiology of drug abuse. This chapter focuses on impulsivity and reviews several lines of research that point to the role of impaired impulse control in the development and maintenance of drug dependence. A fundamental aspect of impulsivity is an inability to inhibit inappropriate actions or behaviors. Impulsivity is examined as a deficit of inhibitory control and behavioral tasks that assess impairments of inhibitory control in the laboratory are described. Studies of the acute disruptive effects of alcohol on drinkers’ inhibitory control are reviewed, and several lines of evidence point to the specific vulnerability of this behavioral function. Evidence is also presented to show how acute impairment of inhibitory control might contribute to abuse potential of alcohol by promoting excessive “binge” drinking. The chapter concludes by discussing how deficient inhibitory control could represent a fundamental behavioral mechanism by which certain emotional and behavioral states precipitate excessive binge drinking, and how such information might benefit relapse prevention treatments for alcohol abusers.


Inhibitory Control Binge Drinking Behavioral State Blood Alcohol Concentration Impair Effect 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported by Award Number R01 AA12895, R01 AA018274, and F31 AA018584 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and by Award Number R21 DA021027 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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