Increased Sensitivity to the Disinhibiting Effects of Alcohol in Adults With ADHD


The acute impairing effects of alcohol on inhibitory control have been well documented in healthy drinkers. By contrast, little is known about alcohol effects in individuals with disorders characterized by poor impulse control, such as those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Alcohol could produce greater inhibitory impairment in these individuals. The present study tested this hypothesis in adults with ADHD (n = 10) and controls (n = 12) using the cued go/no-go task. The task requires quick responses to go targets and suppression of responses to no-go targets following the presentation of cues. Prior research on healthy adults has shown that valid cues can protect against alcohol impairment (Marczinski & Fillmore, 2003). Performance was tested under 3 doses of alcohol: 0.65 g/kg, 0.45 g/kg, and 0.0 g/kg (placebo). Alcohol dose-dependently increased inhibitory failures in controls in the invalid, but not the valid, cue condition. By contrast, those with ADHD displayed significant alcohol impairment regardless of cue condition. Thus, unlike controls, valid cues offered little protection from the disinhibiting effects of alcohol in drinkers with ADHD, suggesting an increased sensitivity to alcohol impairment of inhibitory control.

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