Binge drinking is associated to decisions favoring positive and discounting negative consequences

Decision making in binge drinkers is both risky and disadvantageous; however, previous operationalization of binge drinking has failed to capture the dimensionality of the phenomenon, differentiate drinking pattern from actual alcohol consumption and control for the influence of other substance use and general executive ability.


Background: Therefore, the aim of this study is to assess decision-making performance at various levels of binge drinking severity, while controlling for general executive ability and substance use.

Methods: A total of 121 students, aged 18–25, were assessed by means of the binge score derived from the Alcohol Use Questionnaire (AUQ). They completed the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) and the Information Sampling Task (IST), to assess decision making under ambiguity and risk, respectively. The Letter Number Sequencing (LNS) task was used to control for the influence of general executive function.

Results: When controlling for general executive function and use of other substances, the binge score was predictive of risky decisions in the IST, but only when additional information was costly. In the IGT, the binge score was not predictive of advantageous decisions, but rather associated with decisions returning frequent losses in the first 40 trials of the tasks.

Conclusions: Explicitly presented probabilities for gain and reward makes binge drinkers accept higher degree of risk when making decisions. This could reflect a reward drive proneness, which is established as a risk factor for addictive behaviors. Sensitization to reward might impel binge drinkers to continue the pattern of alcohol consumption, despite the resulting negative outcomes.

Addiction Research & Theory, 2016, DOI:10.3109/16066359.2016.1174215


Published May 2, 2016 7:15 AM - Last modified Nov. 7, 2017 3:07 PM