Background: Trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology are linked to increased risk for problematic drinking, yet the factors that increase such risk remain largely unknown. Theoretical models suggest that affectively oriented drinking motives may be central to trauma-related drinking. Specifically, individual-level motivations to drink to regulate affect may be important for moderating drinking urges that occur acutely in response to trauma cues. Further, elevated distress associated with PTSD symptomatology may increase any affectively motivated, momentary drinking risks. However, research has yet to examine these dynamic affective processes. In a large experimental sample, the current study tested whether affective (i.e., coping and enhancement) drinking motives and PTSD symptomatology moderated individuals' drinking urge in response to a trauma cue in a laboratory cue reactivity paradigm.
Methods: College drinkers (n = 611, 53% female) were recruited and selected across levels of trauma exposure and PTSD symptomatology by a structured clinical interview. Participants were randomized to a personalized trauma or neutral cue, reporting on their urge to drink alcohol before and after cue exposure. Drinking motives were assessed at the end of the experimental session.
Results: Trauma cue associations with drinking urge were moderated by coping, but not enhancement, motives. Specifically, stronger coping motives were associated with increases in urge to drink alcohol following exposure to a trauma but not neutral cue. PTSD classification did not significantly moderate these associations.
Conclusions: Coping motives may increase drinking urge immediately following exposure to trauma cues and may differentiate individuals most at risk for problematic drinking during trauma-associated distress. Findings support momentary negative affect processes driving dynamic, immediate trauma-related drinking risks.
Keywords: Alcohol Use; Coping; Drinking Motives; Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); Trauma.
© 2020 by the Research Society on Alcoholism.