Acute alcohol tolerance on subjective intoxication and simulated driving performance in binge drinkers

Psychol Addict Behav. 2009 Jun;23(2):238-47. doi: 10.1037/a0014633.


High rates of binge drinking and alcohol-related problems, including drinking and driving, occur among college students. Underlying reasons for the heightened impaired driving rates in this demographic group are not known. The authors hypothesized that acute tolerance to the interoceptive cues of intoxication may contribute to these maladaptive decisions to drive in binge drinkers. Groups of binge-drinking and non-binge-drinking college students (N = 28) attended sessions during which they received a moderate dose of alcohol (0.65 g/kg) or a placebo. The development of acute tolerance to subjective ratings of intoxication and simulated driving performance was assessed by comparing measures taken during the ascending phase and descending phases of the blood alcohol curve. Compared with placebo, alcohol increased ratings of intoxication and impaired multiple aspects of simulated driving performance in both binge and non-binge drinkers. During the descending phase of the blood alcohol curve, binge drinkers showed acute tolerance to alcohol's effect on subjective intoxication, and this effect was accompanied by an increased rating of willingness to drive. By contrast, non-binge drinkers showed no acute tolerance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / psychology*
  • Automobile Driving / psychology*
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / blood
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Tolerance*
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / drug effects*
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Risk-Taking
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol