Effects of alcohol on inhibitory processes

Behav Pharmacol. 2008 Jul;19(4):284-91. doi: 10.1097/FBP.0b013e328308f1b2.


Earlier work has shown that alcohol may have disinhibiting effects on behaviour. Two studies tested the effects of a moderate dose of alcohol (0.6 g/kg) versus placebo on tasks that evaluate inhibitory processes related to alcohol stimuli, in moderate-to-heavy social drinkers (student population). An inhibition of interference task, the Stroop task (ST; study 1), and an inhibition of a prepotent response task, the go/no-go task (GNG; study 2), were used. The effects of alcohol on working memory function were also examined. Participants preloaded with alcohol made more errors on the colour and alcohol ST than those preloaded with placebo. In the GNG task, responding to alcohol-related pictures was slower than responding to neutral pictures. When participants were required to switch responding from neutral to alcohol-related go stimuli, responding became slower; however, responding to alcohol go stimuli became faster as time progressed; no effect of alcohol was found. Alcohol had no effect, compared with placebo, on the working memory tasks. Therefore, a moderate dose of alcohol had restricted effects on inhibitory processes: only interference inhibition measured in the ST was affected. Although the data obtained with the GNG task did not show an effect of alcohol on response inhibition, increased latency of response in the presence of alcohol-related stimuli compared with neutral stimuli indicates that alcohol stimuli are more salient to social drinkers, attracting a greater amount of attention.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / administration & dosage
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol