Mocktails or Cocktails? Having a Sense of Purpose in Life Can Keep Binge Drinking at Bay


overview: Having a sense of purpose in life reduces social drinkers’ alcohol consumption and temptation to binge drink.

sauce: University of Pennsylvania

Excessive alcohol consumption is common among college students and, as a result, puts young adults at risk for a variety of health problems, from cardiovascular disease to cancer. From watching a group of friends toasting at a party to celebrating after an exam, college students are exposed to drinking cues on a daily basis.

Using functional MRI (fMRI) scanning technology, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and Dartmouth College examined the relationship between these cues, alcohol cravings, and alcohol consumption. They found that having a strong sense of purpose in life reduced the temptation to consume alcohol excessively among some social drinkers.

Research published in Addictionentitled “Life purpose, neuroalcoholic cue reactivity, and daily alcohol use in social drinkers.”

why purpose of life

Lead author Yoona Kang is director of research in the Laboratory of Communication Neuroscience at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and has a deep interest in the impact of life purpose on health.

In her previous research, having a strong life purpose—a sense that one’s life is guided by personally meaningful values ​​and goals—can ease the loneliness of COVID-19 isolation and was found to be associated with many health benefits, including reducing the effort required to achieve healthy choice.

People whose brains were more active when they saw alcohol cues—those with higher neuroalcoholic cue reactivity—were more likely to drink after craving alcohol.image is public domain

“Values ​​and purpose can have a powerful influence on how people think and act,” Kang says. “What’s interesting about this study is that we asked participants, ‘How do you feel about your purpose in life right now?’ This is because the desired level may fluctuate from day to day. “

craving for alcohol

For this study, Kang and colleagues surveyed and tabulated the behaviors and attitudes of 54 healthy college students daily for a month. The participant answered a question about his current life purpose level once a day and reported how much alcohol he craves and consumes each morning and evening.

“We looked at craving because it’s one of the strongest predictors of actual drinking. If you crave, you’re more likely to drink,” Kang says. “But just because you crave alcohol doesn’t mean you go out and drink. So when these social drinkers crave alcohol, what drives them to drink?” I wanted to know if you were there.”

Student volunteers also received fMRI brain scans, which provided real-time images of brain activity while exposed to alcohol cues, including pictures of beer, wine, booze and people toasting at a party. The researchers analyzed participants’ brain activity within the ventral striatum, a region of the brain previously associated with reward and craving.

People whose brains were more active when they saw alcohol cues—those with higher neuroalcoholic cue reactivity—were more likely to drink after craving alcohol.

When matching this data with the life purpose data, Kang and colleagues made an interesting discovery. These neurosensitive drinkers didn’t necessarily drink more if they felt a strong sense of life purpose when they crave alcohol. And if you feel they have no purpose? They were more likely to drink heavily after a craving for alcohol.

About this Binge Drinking and Psychology Research News

author: press office
sauce: University of Pennsylvania
contact: Press Office – University of Pennsylvania
image: image is public domain

Original research: closed access.
“Life purpose, neuroalcoholic cue reactivity, and daily alcohol use in social drinkers” by Yoona Kang et al. Addiction


overview

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Purpose in life, neural alcohol cue reactivity, and daily alcohol use in social drinkers

Background and purpose

A craving for alcohol is the urge to consume alcohol that generally precedes drinking. Cravings, however, do not lead to drinking in all situations for everyone. In the current study, the correlation between neuroreactivity and alcohol cues was measured as risk, and daily life purpose as a protective factor. This may affect the association between alcohol cravings and subsequent consumption.

design

Observational study correlating functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data on neural cue reactivity with ecological instant assessment (EMA) on life purpose and alcohol use.

Configuration

Two university campuses in the United States.

participant

A total of 54 college students (37 female, 16 male, 1 other) recruited through campus-based groups from January 2019 to October 2020.

measurement

Participants underwent fMRI while viewing alcohol images. We examined activity within the ventral striatum, a key region of interest involved in reward and craving. The participant then completed her 28-day her EMA and answered questions about her level of life goals and alcohol use.

findings

An important three-way interaction was that greater alcohol cue reactivity in the ventral striatum affected alcohol use after craving in everyday life only when previously feeling less purposeful than normal. shown to be associated with an increase in In contrast, those with increased neuronal alcohol cue reactivity responded to craving by drinking less if they had felt a stronger than normal sense of purpose in the previous moment (b).interaction= −0.086, P.< 0.001, 95% CI = -0.137, -0.035).

Conclusion

Neural sensitivity to alcohol cues in the ventral striatum appears to be a potential risk for increased alcohol use in gregarious drinkers, who feel that people are losing their sense of purpose. Elevating daily levels of may promote alcohol moderation among social drinkers who exhibit relatively high reactivity to alcohol cues.



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