Background: Deficits in several aspects of executive cognitive functioning (ECF) have been consistently associated with alcohol use disorders. Most of this research, however, has been conducted in alcohol dependent patient samples. A handful of recent studies, primarily in college students, have also reported similar deficits, but little is known about the effects of heavy drinking in adult, non-patient men and women.
Methods: A community sample (N = 560) of men and women completed a brief battery of ECF measures including measures of attentional control, cognitive flexibility, working memory and response inhibition.Quantity/frequency of alcohol and illicit drug use in the past year were also assessed.
Results: Regression analyses indicated that men and women with higher levels of alcohol consumption exhibited greater impairment on several ECF measures, primarily those pertaining to cognitive flexibility and response inhibition. These results remained after controlling for demographic factors such as age, gender, education, and illicit drug use.
Conclusions: These findings support and extend prior work documenting the deleterious effects of heavy alcohol consumption on ECF in a community sample and specifically indicate robust effects on cognitive flexibility,psychomotor speed, and response inhibition.