Subjective responses to alcohol prime event-specific alcohol consumption and predict blackouts and hangover

J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2009 Jul;70(4):593-600. doi: 10.15288/jsad.2009.70.593.


Objective: Individual differences in subjective response to alcohol and the occurrence of blackouts and hangover are associated with the development of alcohol-use disorders. As such, subjective responses to alcohol, blackouts, and hangover may share a biological vulnerability to excessive alcohol consumption. The purpose of the current study was to examine subjective responses to alcohol as predictors of estimated blood alcohol concentration (BAC), blackouts, and hangover for a single heavy drinking event.

Method: Data were collected on 150 (50% female) college students at a large, public university who reported consuming alcohol during their 21st birthday celebration. Using semi-structured interviews and self-report measures, subjective responses to alcohol (at midpoint of a 21 st birthday celebration) were examined as predictors of final estimated BAC, blackouts, and hangover.

Results: Stimulant effects reported for the midpoint of the drinking event predicted final estimated BAC. Both stimulant and sedative alcohol effects directly predicted blackouts during the drinking event and the occurrence of a hangover. Neither stimulant nor sedative effects were mediated by final estimated BAC.

Conclusions: Retrospective reports of subjective responses to alcohol were associated with the level of intoxication, blackouts, and hangover during a heavy drinking event. Findings therefore suggest the utility of incorporating subjective responses to alcohol into event-specific interventions that are designed to reduce or prevent heavy episodic drinking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / blood
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcohol-Induced Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical
  • Young Adult