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Subjective intoxication as a risk factor for alcohol-induced blackouts across time

A new study prospectively examined whether subjective intoxication serves as a risk factor for experiencing alcohol-induced blackouts and whether subjective intoxication and/or blackouts predicted motivation to decrease drinking, as well as whether this motivation to change would promote future changes in drinking behavior. Participants (N = 1854) were college freshmen at a large state university in the Southwestern U.S. They were recruited the summer prior to enrolling into the university to complete a 6-year longitudinal study. Participants were assessed ten times, including the summer before college, biannually during Years 1 to 3 and annually during Years 4 to 6. The survey included questions about demographics, motivation to change drinking behavior, alcohol induced blackouts, subjective intoxication (i.e., feeling drunk), and quantity of alcohol use using the Daily Drinking Questionnaire. The authors used chi-square tests to analyze the categorical variables, and two-tailed t-tests to analyze the continuous variables as well as a cross-lagged model to examine whether subjective intoxication predicted blackouts, whether blackouts at Year 4 predicted motivation to change at Year 5, and whether this motivation predicted less alcohol use by Year 6. Results showed that 10.4% of participants at Year 4, 9.6% of participants at Year 5 and 9.4% of participants at Year 6 agreed or slightly agreed that they were considering decreasing their alcohol consumption. Furthermore, 52% of participants reported experiencing blackouts during Years 4 to 6. In addition, subjective intoxication at Year 4 prospectively predicted blackouts at Year 5 (p < 0.001) and blackouts at Year 4 significantly predicted motivation to change at Year 5 (p < 0.01). Similarly, subjective intoxication at Year 5 prospectively predicted blackouts at Year 6 (p < 0.001), however, motivation to change at Year 5 did not significantly predict a decrease in quantity of alcohol consumption by Year 6 (p = 0.076).

Take away: This study found subjective intoxication to be a risk factor for alcohol-induced blackouts across several time waves. While blackouts were found to be modest, developmentally limited predictors of motivation to change drinking behavior, they did not predict future behavior change.

Marino, E. N., & Fromme, K. (2018). Alcohol-induced blackouts, subjective intoxication, and motivation to decrease drinking: Prospective examination of the transition out of college. Addictive Behaviors.

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