Psychosocial stress increases craving for alcohol in social drinkers: effects of risk-taking

James Michael Clay, Cameron Adams, Peter Archer, Mark English, Abbey Hyde, Lorenzo Stafford, Matt Parker

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Background: Exposure to stress and trait impulsivity are independent predictors of relapse in recovering alcoholics, but potential mechanisms that link these two risk-factors in terms of their putative additive or interactive contributions to relapse are not known. The aim of this study was to use a model of stress-induced relapse to test the hypothesis that acute psychosocial stress increases craving for alcohol in social drinkers. We also tested the hypothesis that change in craving could be explained by variability in impulsivity and risk-taking.

Methods: Participants completed questionnaires to assess drinking behaviour (Alcohol Dependence Questionnaire [ADQ]; and an Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test [AUDIT]), craving (Desires for Alcohol Questionnaire [DAQ] and impulsivity (Barrett Impulsiveness Scale [BIS]). Participants also completed two computer tasks to assess risk-taking and impulsivity, the Balloon Analogue Risk Test (BART) and a continuous performance task (CPT). Participants then underwent the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), and completed a final DAQ to assess post-stress craving.

Results: Participants showed an increase in craving following exposure to the TSST. In addition, risk-taking was positively correlated with change in craving.

Conclusions: Our data suggested that acute psychosocial stress increases subjective craving in social drinkers, but that the effects may be trait-dependent, with stress-induced increases in craving correlated with risk-taking.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-197
Number of pages6
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Early online date15 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • alcohol
  • relapse
  • risk-taking
  • impulsivity
  • stress
  • craving


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