Effects of Tolerance on the Anxiety-Reducing Function of Alcohol

Thomas R. Lipscomb, Peter E. Nathan, G. Terence Wilson, David B. Abrams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Thirty-two male social drinkers were arranged into two tolerance groups, based on changes in standing stability after ingestion of alcohol. Subjects consumed either a large (1.0 g/kg) or small (0.5 g/kg) dose of alcohol. On finishing their drinks, subjects were requested to interact with a female confederate whose continued silence induced anxiety. Heart rate, skin conductance, overt behavior, and self-report measures were taken. Heart rate increased more at the small than the large dose, consistent with the tension-reduction hypothesis. Further, heart rate of high-tolerance subjects increased significantly more than that of low-tolerance subjects, which suggests that alcohol was less effective at tension reduction for the high-tolerance group. Finally, measures of both skin conductance and heart rate showed significant dose-by-tolerance interactions. High-tolerance subjects were more aroused than were low-tolerance subjects at the small but not at the large dose, suggesting that high-tolerance subjects must consume more alcohol to achieve the same autonomic effect experienced by the low-tolerance subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)577-582
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of General Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1980

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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