Acute tolerance to the diminishing effects of alcohol and the influence of alcohol outcome expectancies

  • Andy Eastwood

    Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science by Research


    Acute alcohol tolerance refers to diminished alcohol induced impairment on the descending compared to the ascending limb of the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) curve, at comparable BACs. Research has demonstrated that this rapid tolerance develops for behavioural activation, psychomotor ability and self-report feelings of intoxication. No acute recovery of inhibitory control has been found. Alcohol outcome expectancies are beliefs about the anticipated outcomes associated with alcohol consumption; positive expectations increase consumption whilst negative expectations decrease consumption. To date, the influence that these pre-existing expectancies have on the development of acute alcohol tolerance remains unexplored. Using an adapted version of the BAC curve experimental procedure, the present thesis initially aimed to identify whether past literature demonstrating the development of acute alcohol tolerance is replicable. The primary objective was to then investigate whether alcohol outcome expectancies predict the magnitude of acute tolerance development. It was anticipated that the development of acute alcohol tolerance would be replicated and that outcome expectancies, particularly negative, would predict the magnitude of tolerance development due to the increased influence of compensatory mechanisms. Firstly, results indicate that acute alcohol tolerance developed for measures of psychomotor ability and subjective intoxication. However, no tolerance developed for both aspects of behavioural control (response activation and inhibitory control). This prolonged impairment of inhibitory control on the descending compared to the ascending limb may function to promote excessive consumption during a single drinking session. Secondly, results indicate that positive and negative expectancies do not influence the development of acute alcohol tolerance. Potential explanations surrounding this are discussed and suggestions for future research are outlined.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorNigel Wilson (Supervisor), Rebecca Jenks (Supervisor) & Miguel Farias (Supervisor)

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