Effects of Bodily Arousal on Desire to Drink Alcohol among Trauma-Exposed Emerging Adult College Students
Description: Alcohol consumption on college campuses is a major public health concern, particularly among emerging adults. Extant literature has identified trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress as robust risk factors for problematic alcohol use. However, the mechanisms underlying this association are less well-studied. Research indicates that bodily arousal is a fundamental feature of trauma exposure and posits that internal stimuli (e.g., heart pounding) at the time of trauma may manifest into conditioned cues that can trigger posttraumatic responding and related symptomatology, including alcohol use. However, past work supporting these assertions have used paradigms purposefully designed to evoke memories of the trauma, making it difficult to conclude whether the subsequent alcohol craving was due more to the explicit memory cue or the associated bodily arousal. The current study examined whether an implicit, trauma-relevant cue of bodily arousal (via hyperventilation) – independent of any explicit memory cue – would elicit increased desire to drink among 80 (Mage = 20.34; 63.8% female) trauma-exposed, emerging adult students. Results found no statistically significant difference in change in alcohol craving between the hyperventilation and control tasks. However, exploratory analyses indicated that trauma type (i.e., interpersonal/non-interpersonal) may moderate this relationship; more specifically, individuals reporting interpersonal trauma as their most traumatic event evidenced a significantly greater increase in desire to drink following hyperventilation compared to the non-interpersonal index trauma group. Generally, results suggest that bodily arousal, without an explicit trauma reminder, is not a specific and/or powerful enough trauma-relevant cue to reliably influence alcohol cravings across all trauma exposed emerging adult students. Suggestions for future directions to help in identifying at-risk subgroups, as well as methodological and procedural improvements, are discussed.
Date: May 2018
Creator: Kearns, Nathan T