Addiction experts are trying to understand why people engage in ‘extreme’ drinking

It is a health crisis that is often hidden in the eyes.

Although the behaviors of excessive drinking – drinking alcohol up to a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or more – have been previously studied, relatively little research has focused on human behavior and the consequences surrounding “extreme” drinking or drinking alcohol in the blood. of 0.16%. Now, using a five-year $ 2.5 million donation from the National Institutes of Health, addiction experts from the University of Missouri in the Department of Psychology hope to provide a more accurate picture of why people engage in extreme drinking levels using a combination of portable breathalyzers and apps for a smartphone, along with lab data.

Tim Trull, a distinguished curator professor and a distinguished professor of psychological sciences Byler, said this new method will allow researchers to study participants both in the laboratory environment and in the real world. Trull, the donation’s chief investigator, believes the team will be able to get an accurate picture of people’s drinking habits.

This project will allow us to see in a relatively natural way what types of factors affect whether someone drinks at all or drinks too much. Some of the factors we look at range from biological, like genetics, to environmental, like hanging out with friends or going to a bar or restaurant. “

Tim Trull, curators Distinguished Professor and Distinguished Professor of Psychological Sciences Byler

Traditionally, scientists have collected information about the behavior of people in drinking by relying on people who report their own behavior. However, Denis McCarthy, professor of psychology and chief grant officer, notes that the data collected by this method of reporting is not always reliable.

“A lot of attention is paid to drinking, but that’s not the most alcohol people consume,” McCarthy said. “Someone who drinks five drinks in two hours might have 10 drinks a second time. Getting information from people while drinking is the only way we can get an accurate account of what happens during these extreme drinks. If you try to ask them later, in retrospect, the more alcohol they drank, the less likely they were to remember exactly. “

Trull said the digital information he would collect would not contain any personal information about study participants. He hopes that the team’s findings, which will be analyzed at the population rather than the individual level, could help inform about future public health interventions.

“Alcohol use disorders and excessive drinking in general are huge public health issues,” Trull said. “This study is important because we collect real-time data on what factors may influence whether someone is prone to overuse of substances, but at the same time recognize the potential negative consequences of their actions.”

This project will help address one of the most widespread and long-standing addiction problems in Missouri – alcohol abuse – which is the main focus of the Missouri Center for Addiction Research and Engagement, or MO-CARE. The center coordinates the work of addiction researchers across the University of Missouri system who work to meet the needs of Missouri addicts through innovative research, improving remote access to care, and training the next generation of addiction treatment providers.

More than 14 million American adults have a health condition called “alcohol use disorder,” including nearly 300,000 Missourians. Excessive drinking and the use of strong alcohol can contribute to and increase one’s risk for developing this condition, which the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism considers a brain disorder. This behavior can also lead to an increased risk of developing other health problems such as chronic diseases and various cancers.


University of Missouri-Columbia