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Component #5

Stress-Induced Drinking in Emerging Adults: The Role of Trauma History

Principal Investigator: Carla Danielson, Ph.D.
Co-Principal Investigator: Suzanne Thomas, Ph.D.

Individuals exposed to a traumatic event at any time in their life, particularly those who develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have a higher incidence of problematic drinking. However, little is known about the relationship between trauma, PTSD, and drinking in “emerging adults” (ages 21-30 years), in spite of this age group being at highest risk of developing subsequent drinking problems.

This component uses a three-group design. The target population will have no trauma exposure, trauma exposure without PTSD, and trauma exposure with PTSD. The type of traumatic event exposure history will be limited to interpersonal trauma. This project uses a well-established clinical laboratory paradigm of stress induction to investigate the role of a history of exposure to trauma on reactivity to a social stress test, and on stress-induced voluntary drinking. Study subjects in this component will be individuals who do not meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence. Half of each group will receive the stress test and the other half will be randomized to the no stress condition.

Using subjective as well as biological indices of stress, the first aim of this project examines the effect of trauma history on stress reactivity, using subjective, neuroendocrine, and physiological measures of stress. The second aim examines the effect of trauma history on subsequent drinking behavior and subjective response to alcohol using established procedures in a clinical laboratory paradigm.

This study will advance our understanding of the relationship between a history of interpersonal trauma, stress, and drinking. The ultimate goal of this line of research is to identify “at risk” groups early in their drinking careers, before unhealthy drinking practices and/or dependence develop. This information has the potential to inform prevention and intervention alcohol research.


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