Symptoms of depression and PTSD are associated with elevated alcohol demand


Background: Behavioral economic demand curves measure individual differences in motivation for alcohol and have been associated with problematic patterns of alcohol use, but little is known about the variables that may contribute to elevated demand. Negative visceral states have been theorized to increase demand for alcohol and to contribute to excessive drinking patterns, but little empirical research has evaluated this possibility. The present study tested the hypothesis that symptoms of depression and PTSD would be uniquely associated with elevated alcohol demand even after taking into account differences in typical drinking levels. Method: An Alcohol Purchase Task (APT) was used to generate a demand curve measure of alcohol reinforcement in a sample of 133 college students (50.4% male, 64.4% Caucasian, 29.5% African-American) who reported at least one heavy drinking episode (5/4 or more drinks in one occasion for a man/woman) in the past month. Participants also completed standard measures of alcohol consumption and symptoms of depression and PTSD. Results: Regression analyses indicated that symptoms of depression were associated with higher demand intensity (alcohol consumption when price=0; ΔR2=05, p=002) and lower elasticity (ΔR2=04, p=03), and that PTSD symptoms were associated with all five demand curve metrics (ΔR2=04-07, ps<.05). Conclusions: These findings provide support for behavioral economic models of addiction that highlight the role of aversive visceral states in increasing the reward value of alcohol and provide an additional theoretical model to explain the association between negative affect and problematic drinking patterns. © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.

Publication Title

Drug and Alcohol Dependence