Intoxicated Drinkers Will Pay Premium for Just One More
New findings from a group of American researchers point toward a spike in alcohol cravings and the willingness to pay for alcohol access in intoxicated drinkers.
Alcohol cravings are strong urges for alcohol use that can potentially indicate the presence of alcohol use disorder (alcoholism and/or non-addicted alcohol abuse) in a person who habitually drinks in heavy or excessive amounts. In a study published in March 2015 in the journal Addiction, researchers from the University of Missouri sought to determine if alcohol cravings increase significantly in people under the influence of alcohol intoxication. These researchers also sought to determine if intoxicated consumers experience real-world changes in their demands for alcohol and their willingness to pay in order to keep drinking.
Cravings are common to all human beings and don’t necessarily trigger any real problems. Most people have direct experience with harmless or relatively harmless urges to eat certain types of food or participate in other types of pleasurable activity. However, cravings can cause serious problems when they override logical thinking or decision-making and support involvement in clearly harmful behavior. A person with an alcohol craving feels a compelling urge to drink; depending on the individual and his or her situation, such an urge can override logical precautions that limit involvement in alcohol use. In turn, people who habitually disregard known facts regarding the dangers of excessive alcohol use can substantially increase their chances of developing diagnosable alcohol problems.
The American Psychiatric Association officially views the repeated occurrence of alcohol cravings as one of 11 potential symptoms of alcohol use disorder. A person affected by repeated cravings needs to experience only one additional symptom before meeting the minimum criteria for diagnosing this condition. Alcohol cravings are commonly supported or initiated by alcohol cues that consciously or unconsciously increase a person’s desire to drink. Potential sources of alcohol cues include alcohol-related imagery in advertisements or commercials, public or private settings where drinking frequently occurs and peers who consume alcohol and view drinking as the norm.
Although some of its effects are viewed as desirable or pleasant, alcohol intoxication is a form of poisoning. It occurs when you consume more alcohol than your liver can safely break down and eliminate in any given span of time. Since the liver’s ability to deal effectively with the presence of alcohol is limited, the first signs of intoxication can appear in a person who consumes less than two standard drinks per hour. Many of the subjectively pleasant effects of intoxication appear at relatively low blood-alcohol levels. People who approach a legal state of drunkenness (a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher) typically experience serious declines in their abilities to control their bodies or their higher-level mental processes. Highly intoxicated people can develop non-fatal or fatal cases of alcohol poisoning.
Alcohol Cravings in Intoxicated Drinkers
In the study published in Addiction, the University of Missouri researchers used a small-scale project involving 85 young adults to assess the levels of alcohol craving found in intoxicated drinkers. Thirty-one of these study participants received alcohol in a controlled laboratory setting, while another 29 participants received a non-alcoholic placebo. The remainder of the participants received neither alcohol nor a placebo and acted as an independent comparison group. The researchers assessed the level of alcohol craving associated with varying levels of alcohol intake. In addition, they measured the participants’ level of demand for further drinking at varying levels of intake. Indicators of demand levels included the amount of money an alcohol consumer would pay for one more drink, the overall amount of money a drinker would pay for access to alcohol and how much alcohol a drinker would willingly consume if cost were not an obstacle.
After completing testing, the researchers concluded that people under the influence of alcohol intoxication experience a significant spike in their levels of alcohol craving. They also concluded that intoxicated drinkers express their increased craving levels through real-world behaviors that include a willingness to pay more money for a single serving of alcohol and an increase in the amount of alcohol consumed when cost is not a concern. The researchers believe that such real-world changes in economic behavior can potentially help researchers and addiction specialists identify those individuals who experience spikes in their craving levels while intoxicated.