Addiction resistance to alcohol: What about heavy drinkers who avoid alcohol problems?

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2019 Nov 1;204:107552. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.107552. Epub 2019 Sep 11.


Background: Some individuals are resistant to alcohol use disorders despite high levels of intake. Addiction Resistance (AR) measures the disparity between alcohol consumption and alcohol use disorder (AUD) symptoms, such that some persons exhibit few (AUD) symptoms despite higher intake. The validity of the concept and the factors contributing to AR are not well understood. The aim of this study was to predict AR based on variables related to risk for addiction that are measured in the Family Health Patterns Project.

Method: Participants were healthy young adults (n = 1122) with and without a family history of alcohol and other substance use disorders who were given measures of mood stability and risk-taking tendencies, and were interviewed to determine alcohol intake, AUD symptoms, and other substance use disorders (SUD). AR was calculated using maximal lifetime alcohol intake and number of AUD symptoms.

Results: A principal components analysis was run with varimax rotation, which yielded three components: Component 1 indexed behavioral and mood regulation, Component 2 encompassed family and environmental factors, and Component 3 included cognitive factors. A multiple regression analysis revealed that Component 1 and Component 2 were predictive of AR whereas Component 3 was not.

Discussion: Individuals who reported greater emotional stability, norm adherence, risk avoidance, and fewer family members with substance use disorders were more resistant to AUD despite higher alcohol intake. These findings suggest that AUD risk and resistance may represent different points of the same continuum.

Keywords: Addiction resistance; Alcoholism; Family history; Substance use disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Disease Resistance*
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Risk-Taking
  • Young Adult