Adolescent Women Induce Lower Blood Alcohol Levels Than Men in a Laboratory Alcohol Self-Administration Experiment

Elisabeth Jünger, Gabriela Gan, Inge Mick, Christian Seipt, Alexandra Markovic, Christian Sommer, Martin H. Plawecki, Sean O'Connor, Michael N. Smolka, Ulrich S. Zimmermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Adolescence is a critical period for the development of alcohol use disorders; drinking habits are rather unstable and genetic influences, such as male sex and a positive family history of alcoholism (FH), are often masked by environmental factors such as peer pressure. Methods: We investigated how sex and FH modulate alcohol use in a sample of 18- to 19-year-olds from the Dresden Longitudinal Study on Alcohol use in Young Adults. Adolescents reported their real-life drinking in a TimeLine Follow-Back interview. They subsequently completed a training and an experimental session of free-access intravenous alcohol self-administration (i.v. ASA) using the computer-assisted alcohol infusion system to control for environmental cues as well as for biological differences in alcohol pharmacokinetics. During i.v. ASA, we assessed subjective alcohol effects at 8 time points. Results: Women reported significantly less real-life drinking than men and achieved significantly lower mean arterial blood alcohol concentrations (aBACs) in the laboratory. At the same time, women reported greater sedation relative to men and rated negative effects as high as did men. A positive FH was associated with lower real-life drinking in men but not in women. In the laboratory, FH was not linked to i.v. ASA. Greater real-life drinking was significantly positively associated with higher mean aBACs in the laboratory, and all i.v. ASA indices were highly correlated across the 2 sessions. Conclusions: We conclude that adolescent women chose lower aBACs because they experienced adverse alcohol effects, namely sedation and negative effects, at lower aBACs than men. A positive FH was not apparent as risk factor for drinking in our young sample. The i.v. ASA method demonstrated good external validity as well as test–retest reliability, the latter indicating that a separate training session is not required when employing the i.v. ASA paradigm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1769-1778
Number of pages10
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Computer-Assisted Alcohol Infusion System
  • Intravenous Alcohol Self-Administration
  • Subjective Alcohol Effects
  • Subjective Response to Ethanol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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