Self-reported subjective perception of intoxication reflects family history of alcoholism when breath alcohol levels are constant

Journal Article

Background: The premise of this study is that the increased familial risk for alcoholism is associated with genetic determinants of the response to alcohol, characterized by sensitivity and adaptation. Following a single administration, sensitivity is the initial response to alcohol, expressed as the change in dependent measures from baseline. Adaptation of dependent measures within a single exposure to alcohol can be expressed as acute tolerance (recovery of dependent measures toward baseline values) or sensitization (movement of dependent measure further away from baseline values). This study tested the hypothesis that family history-positive (FHP) subjects are more sensitive and more adaptive to alcohol compared with family history-negative (FHN) subjects. Methods: The initial response and development of adaptation to alcohol were assessed by using selfreported subjective perceptions during a breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) clamp of 60 mg%. The Biphasic Alcohol Effects Scale, the Sensation Scale and a visual analog scale of intoxication were acquired at baseline, after the BrAC clamp was established, and after maintenance of the clamp for 105 min. Results: FHP subjects were more sensitive to alcohol compared with FHNs, as evidenced by greater changes in feelings of intoxication when the BrAC clamp was initially achieved. While the clamp was maintained, the FHP subjects adapted to the effects of alcohol and their perceptions of intoxication became indistinguishable from those of the FHN subjects. The FHP subjects had developed acute tolerance to alcohol, whereas the FHN subjects did not. Other self-reported perceptions of alcohol's effects did not distinguish between the groups. Conclusions: A differential family history of alcoholism was reflected in self-reported subjective perceptions of intoxication when the brain's exposure to a specified concentration of alcohol was held constant (BrAC of 60 mg%). FHP subjects reported greater intoxication after alcohol and subsequently developed acute tolerance to alcohol compared with FHN subjects.

Cited Authors

  • Morzorati, SL; Ramchandani, VA; Flury, L; Li, TK; O'Connor, S

Published Date

  • 2002

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 26 / 8

Start / End Page

  • 1299 - 1306

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0145-6008