People are well aware of the numerous and adverse effects of alcohol, yet many continue to drink, with some even indulging in binge drinking. A recent study has suggested that alcohol use and its effect can alter the way information is processed in the brain.
According to the study, titled “Attentional blink to alcohol cues in binge drinkers versus non-binge drinkers,” binge drinkers managed to process alcohol-related images and words in a more effective manner compared to others. The study, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors in April 2017, carried out a six-month observation and compared 47 college students with a binge drinking past to 47 students who were social drinkers but did not have any binge drinking history.
The study was based on the premise that images of alcohol or reference to words pertaining to alcohol or its use can be among the most prominent stimuli for those who drink on a regular basis. While prior behavioral studies on attentional prejudice have exhibited distinctions in reaction times to alcohol versus non-alcohol stimulants among social drinkers, the researchers of this study intended to examine the attention timing to alcohol cues by making use of an attentional blink (AB) archetype. This process allowed the researchers to find out how stimuli relevant to motivation could help regain consciousness in such a short span of time despite limited resources.
They observed that after constant efforts, binge drinkers were able to accurately pinpoint at alcohol cues versus non-alcohol cues under reduced attentional resources at initial levels of encoding which is evident from AB deficit for these targets. These effects were also linked to binge drinkers with a family history of alcohol use disorder (AUD) and those with a serious drinking problem in the past. The findings of the study indicated an increased level of effectiveness in attentional processing to alcohol cues among binge drinkers. Assessing these subtle distinctions in the timing and degree of attentional processing in social drinkers with different patterns of drinking will go a long way in finding effective treatment options.
Elucidating on how excessive drinking can affect one’s attention span, one of the co-authors of the study Reiko Graham from Texas State University, San Marcos said, “People who engage in hazardous alcohol use patterns (e.g. binge drinking) are often unaware of the impact this style of drinking can have on behaviors beyond our conscious awareness. Prior research suggests that those who participate in binge drinking may become sensitized to alcohol-related cues with repeated exposure, resulting in an automatic shift of attention toward these types of stimuli (i.e. attentional bias).”
Treating binge drinking habits
Binge drinking is a serious health concern in the U.S. This is evident from figures by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), suggesting 26.9 percent people, aged 18 years and above, reported being engaged in binge drinking in the month prior to the survey in 2015. According to the 2015 NSDUH, an estimated 15.1 million adults, aged 18 years and above, had been living with AUD in 2015 alone.
Sovereign Health is a leading behavioral health treatment provider offering evidence-based treatment approaches on how to treat alcohol abuse. Experts employed by our alcohol addiction treatment centers not only help in effective recovery from dependence on alcohol but also provide advice regarding holistic well-being. Flirting with alcohol makes one lose the intrinsic happiness of life. However, it is possible to get back one’s joie-de-vivre through treatment at rehab centers. Call our 24/7 helpline number or chat with our online representatives for more information about alcoholism treatment programs available with us.