Decision making in alcohol dependence: insensitivity to future consequences and comorbid disinhibitory psychopathology

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2008 Aug;32(8):1398-407. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2008.00714.x. Epub 2008 Jun 28.


Background: Alcohol dependence (AD) is often comorbid with other disinhibitory disorders that are characterized by poor decision making and evidenced by disadvantageous strategies on laboratory tasks such as the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). In this study, a variant of the IGT is used to examine specific mechanisms that may account for poor decision making on the task in AD both with and without comorbid psychopathology.

Methods: The community sample (n = 428) included 134 young adult subjects with AD and a history of childhood conduct disorder (CCD), 129 with AD and no history of CCD, 60 with a history of CCD and no AD, and 105 controls. Lifetime histories of other disinhibitory problems (adult antisocial behavior, marijuana, and other drugs) and major depression also were assessed. A modified version of the IGT was used to estimate (i) insensitivity to future consequences (IFC), and (ii) preference for large versus small immediate reward decks (PLvS).

Results: Both AD and CCD were associated with greater IFC but not greater PLvS. Structural equation models (SEMs) indicated that IFC was associated with higher scores on a latent dimensional "disinhibitory disorders" factor representing the covariance among all lifetime measures of disinhibitory psychopathology, but was not directly related to any one disinhibitory disorder. SEMs also suggested that adult antisocial behavior was uniquely associated with a greater PLvS.

Conclusions: Disadvantageous decision making on the IGT in those with AD and related disinhibitory disorders may reflect an IFC that is common to the covariance among these disorders but not unique to any one disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Gambling / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Models, Statistical
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Young Adult