"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Heavy drinkers may not tolerate their alcohol higher

19 June 2023 — A new study challenges the widespread assumption that folks who often drink excessively cope higher with alcohol than individuals who don't drink as much.

They may perform higher than occasional drinkers once they eat their normal amount of alcohol, but not a lot once they eat greater than their usual amount, in response to the study, which was published in Alcohol: Clinical and experimental research.

“Many believe that experienced drinkers (that is, people with alcohol use disorder) are tolerant to the harmful effects of alcohol,” said Dr. Andrea King, professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience on the University of Chicago and lead creator of the study, in a university interview. Press release.

“We confirmed this to some extent, but with a lot of nuance. In our study, when they drank alcohol at a level similar to their usual drinking behavior, we found significant impairments in both fine motor and cognitive ability tests that were even greater than those seen in an occasional drinker at the intoxicating dose.”

The research team tested 397 individuals who were divided into the categories of occasional drinkers (who don't binge drink), heavy occasional drinkers (who drink several times a month) and other people with an alcohol use disorder – also generally known as alcoholism – who binge drink ceaselessly, a couple of third of the time.

Participants got a drink containing alcohol, a stimulant, a depressant, or a placebo and consumed it inside quarter-hour. The alcohol content of the alcoholic drink was based on body weight and was such as 4 or five drinks.

Participants took a breathalyzer test and were tested at 30, 60, 120 and 180 minute intervals. A motor skills test required them to place pegs in holes and a cognitive test required them to match symbols on a chunk of paper. Participants were also asked to rate their impairment after 30 and 180 minutes, from “not at all” to “extremely.”

The AUD and heavy drinkers reported being less impaired than the sunshine drinkers. After half-hour, the heavy drinkers and AUD drinkers performed well on the cognitive test, while the sunshine drinkers didn't. But all three groups were equally impaired on the motor test after half-hour.

A subgroup of AUD drinkers underwent additional testing during which they got a drink such as their usual consumption, that's, seven or eight drinks, and showed greater than twice the mental and motor impairment than after the same old intoxicating dose.