Distraction towards contextual alcohol cues and craving are associated with levels of alcohol use among youth.
BACKGROUND: Controlling drinking behaviour requires the ability to block out distracting alcohol cues in situations in which drinking is inappropriate or harmful. However, at present few studies have investigated whether distraction and response inhibition to contextual alcohol cues are related to alcohol use in adolescents and young adults. We aimed to investigate whether tendencies towards distraction and failures of response inhibition in the presence of contextual alcohol cues, and alcohol craving were associated with higher levels of alcohol consumption, beyond what could be explained by demographic variables. METHODS: To test this, 108 participants (Mean age = 21.7, range = 16-27), whom were both drinkers and non-drinkers performed a modified Go/NoGo task tailored to measure distraction and response inhibition in the presence of alcohol cues relative to neutral stimuli. Alcohol craving was assessed using a visual analogue scale of craving for different types of alcohol cues. Levels of alcohol use and problematic alcohol use were assessed using a self-report measure of number of drinking days in the previous month and the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. Data were analysed using sequential multiple regression using a zero-inflated negative binomial distribution model. RESULTS: Drinking days correlated with distraction but not response inhibition to contextual alcohol cues. Sequential regression analyses revealed that the inclusion of distraction bias accounted for 11% additional variance (significant) in alcohol use, in addition to that explained by demographics alone (17%). Craving for alcohol explained an additional 30% variance (significant) in alcohol use. CONCLUSIONS: The results reported here support the idea that both biased distraction towards alcohol cues and alcohol craving are associated with preceding drinking days, but not necessarily drinking status. Further studies are warranted that address whether cognitive distraction to alcohol-related cues cause or is an effect of alcohol use among youth.