Drinking status but not acute alcohol consumption influences delay discounting

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OBJECTIVE: 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).

METHODS: 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.

RESULTS: 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.

CONCLUSIONS: 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
JournalHuman Psychopharmacology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2017

Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Tobacco and Alcohol


  • Journal Article


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