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Low Sensitivity to Alcohol: Relations With Hangover Occurrence and Susceptibility in an Ecological Momentary Assessment Investigation

Thomas M. Piasecki, Kyle J. Alley, Wendy S. Slutske, Phillip K. Wood, Kenneth J. Sher, Saul Shiffman, Andrew C. Heath

Objective: The current investigation tested whether low sensitivity to alcohol, as measured by the Self-Rating of the Effects of Alcohol (SRE) form, is associated with hangover occurrence or resistance, two potentially important predictors of later problematic drinking outcomes. Method: Drinkers who reported using alcohol at least four times in the past month (N = 402) completed the SRE at baseline and used ecological momentary assessment methods with an electronic diary to record drinking behaviors and related experiences over 21 days. Each morning, the diary assessed prior-night drinking behaviors and the presence of current hangover. Results: After adjustments for sex, body weight, age, and smoking status, higher SRE scores (indicating lower alcohol sensitivity) predicted hangover occurrence on postdrinking mornings (odds ratio [OR] = 1.24 per interquartile range [IQR], p = .003). However, when the number of drinks consumed in the drinking episode was covaried, SRE scores were negatively associated with hangover (OR = 0.67 per IQR, p <.001). An interaction between SRE scores and the number of drinks consumed indicated that low-sensitivity drinkers tend to be differentially resistant to hangover at a given number of drinks. Higher SRE scores were associated with consuming more drinks on average (generalized estimating equations coefficient = 2.20 per IQR, p <.001). Conclusions: Individuals lower in alcohol sensitivity appear to be more resistant to hangovers per unit of alcohol. However, they are also more likely to engage in excessive drinking, and this may account for their increased odds of experiencing hangover during an arbitrary monitoring period. Heavy consumption, hangover resistance, and hangover frequency may each be manifestations of low sensitivity to alcohol, an established risk factor for alcohol use disorder. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 73, 925932, 2012)