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The Effect of Menstrual Cycle on Blood Alcohol Levels and Behavior

John Brick, Peter E. Nathan, Edward Westrick, William Frankenstein, Allan Shapiro

To determine whether the behavioral effects of alcohol were altered by menstrual cycle phase, 10 women between the ages of 21 and 24 who reported regular menstrual cycles of 28-31 days participated in three experimental sessions, the dates of which coincided with the flow, midcycle and premenstrual phases of their cycles. In each session, the effects of alcohol (.65 g\/kg) were measured on memory for words, standing steadiness, coding vigilance and blood alcohol level (BAL). The following measures were obtained in each of three testing rounds: (1) baseline, (2) the ascending limb of the BAL curve and (3) the descending limb of the BAL curve. Peak BALs of 83 ± 2 mg\/dl were obtained. On coding vigilance, the subjects were observed to perform better during the flow phase of their cycle than they did in either the midcycle or premenstrual phase. No significant phase by alcohol effects were obtained, however. These results suggest that neither the pharmacokinetics of alcohol nor certain behaviors affected by alcohol were affected by menstrual cycle phase. These results are generally consistent with previous research, and they question the logic of excluding women subjects from studies on the effects of alcohol on behavior, at least for the variables used in this study.