That “Warm Glow” of the First Drink Might Take You To Hell!

In a recent blog we looked at the possibility that those  with a positive family history of alcoholism, experience a heightened stimulant response to alcohol in addition to a blunted response to more negative impairing effects. 

In other words sons and daughters of alcoholics at risk for later alcoholism appear to have a greater kick from alcohol and can also hold their liquor without the negatives that go with it such as falling around the place, etc. I think we all know, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, what these negative   impairing effects may be.  In fact I suspect we all have rather vivid memories of experiencing such negative impairing effects.

Personally speaking I used to love having a good laugh at my friends, enemies and acquaintances having these negative impairing effects and would often remind them of these the following hungover-cursed morning.

I rarely got plastered, swayed madly across the street, puked up or made a complete fool of myself. Not in the early days of drinking anyway!!

In this study from a few months ago, it is clearly suggested that  heavy social drinkers who report greater stimulation and reward from alcohol are more likely to develop alcohol use disorder over time.

A team led by Andrea King, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago, analyzed the subjective response of 104 young adult heavy social drinkers to alcohol and tracked their long-term drinking habits.

“Heavy drinkers who felt alcohol’s stimulant and pleasurable effects at the highest levels in their 20s were the ones with the riskiest drinking profiles in the future and most likely to go on and have alcohol problems in their 30s,” King said, “In comparison, participants reporting fewer positive effects of alcohol were more likely to mature out of binge drinking as they aged.”

“We knew that at age 25, there were binge drinkers who were sensitive to alcohol’s more positive effects,” King said. “We just didn’t know what was going to happen to them. Now we show that they’re the ones more likely to go on to experience more alcohol problems.”

Journal Reference

  1. Andrea C. King, Patrick J. McNamara, Deborah S. Hasin, Dingcai Cao. Alcohol Challenge Responses Predict Future Alcohol Use Disorder Symptoms: A 6-Year Prospective Study. Biological Psychiatry, 2014; 75 (10): 798 DOI:10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.08.001

Journalist Article Reference

  1. University of Chicago Medical Center. “Effects of alcohol in young binge drinkers predicts future alcoholism.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 May 2014. <>.

The ability to ‘hold one’s liquor’ indicates risk of developing alcohol problems

When I was starting out on my drinking career around 14/15 years old, I prided myself on my ability to hold my drink or as they say in the US to hold my liquor. It made me feel like a man for some reason especially as I could easily drink grown men under the table. Was this due to my budding alcoholism? Did this innate ability to drink large amounts of alcohol mark me out as at risk for future alcoholism?


A study from last year  showed that an ability to “hold one’s liquor” is likely to become a risk factor for longer-term problems as tolerance to alcohol develops.

“People who feel less impaired after drinking are at increased risk for developing AUDs,” said William R. Corbin, associate professor and director of clinical training in the department of psychology at Arizona State University. “A low subjective response (SR)  to alcohol may result from differences in drinking history.”

It should be noted that this low SR precedes the development of alcohol problems, as distinct from acquired tolerance – whereby individuals feel less intoxicated than they used to at the same level of consumption –  is a symptom in itself.

This study examined the unique role of initial SR and tolerance in a sample of heavy drinking young adults.

Corbin and his colleagues examined associations between early subjective response and acquired tolerance, and both drinking behavior and alcohol-related problems, within a sample of 113 heavy drinking young adults (75 men, 38 women) who had volunteered for a clinical trial of naltrexone in combination with brief motivational counseling.

“Consistent with the one prior study on this topic, we found that both initial SR and tolerance were related to drinking behavior, with heavier drinking among those with a low initial SR and greater acquired tolerance,” said Corbin.

“The participants in our sample were young heavy drinkers who had not yet passed through the peak period of risk for alcohol use disorders (AUDs),” said Corbin. “We speculate that protection against alcohol-related problems among young heavy drinkers with a low SR may allow them to continue to drink more heavily as they miss the ‘stop’ signal to cease drinking. A continued escalation in heavy drinking may ultimately contribute to an increased risk for AUDs.”

Corbin said this study provides further evidence for differential roles of initial SR and acquired tolerance. “Whereas both were associated with drinking behavior, only initial SR was related to AUDs among heavy drinkers with considerable acquired tolerance,” he said.

“In this study, the responses measured are primarily sedative and unpleasant, hence playing a stronger protective role in individuals who have negative responses to alcohol. However, and as noted by the authors, this sample is characterized by heavy drinkers who may differ in terms of their genetic make up and predisposition to problem drinking”.sujective rep

“In addition,” said Corbin, “there is evidence that individuals at increased risk for alcohol problems, such as heavy drinkers and those with a positive family history of alcoholism, experience a heightened stimulant response to alcohol in addition to a blunted response to more negative impairing effects.”



Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. “The ability to ‘hold one’s liquor’ indicates risk of developing alcohol problems.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 January 2013. <>.