Home > Subjective executive function deficits in hazardous alcohol drinkers.

Powell, Anna and Sumnall, Harry and Kullu, Cecil and Owens, Lynn and Montgomery, Catherine (2021) Subjective executive function deficits in hazardous alcohol drinkers. Journal of Psychopharmacology, https://doi.org/10.1177/02698811211032605.

External website: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/026988112...

Background: Dependent alcohol drinkers exhibit differences in the structure and function of the brain, and impairments in cognitive function, including executive functions (EFs). Less is known about the impact of non-dependent but hazardous use (that which raises the risk of harm), and it is also unclear to what extent executive impairments in this cohort affect real-world function. The current study examines the relationship between alcohol use, EF and alcohol-related problems, in the general population. 

Methods: A between-groups cross-sectional design assessed EF across two levels of drinking; hazardous (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) score of ⩾8) and non-hazardous. Alcohol drinkers (n = 666; 136 male; 524 female; six not disclosed; aged 28.02 ± 10.40 years) completed validated questionnaires online assessing subjective EF, alcohol use and alcohol-related problems. 

Results: Organisation, Strategic Planning, Impulse Control and overall function were significantly impaired in hazardous drinkers. Furthermore, the effect of alcohol on EF, partially mediated the relationship between alcohol use and alcohol-related problems. 

Conclusion: Hazardous drinking was associated with lower subjective EF, and this mediated the effect of alcohol on alcohol-related problems. This may be due to changes in prefrontal brain regions, which could indicate greater risk for the development of alcohol dependence (AD). Future research should use additional means to assess EF in hazardous drinkers, including recovery of function, development of AD and the relationship between cognition and alcohol-related daily problems.

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