A new study suggests that childhood loneliness predicts alcohol addiction. The study shows evidence that people who had lonely childhoods are likely to have a greater reaction to stress. This, in turn, makes them more prone to problems associated with alcohol consumption.
Julie A. Patock-Peckham, the director of the lab and a co-author of the new study from Arizona State University, said that the lab has been studying stress and drinking too much for a long time.
“The Social Addictions Impulse Lab has a long history of studying stress and drinking too much,” she said. “We are interested in the analysis of why some people drink beyond their own intents for drinking. This is despite the possibility of extremely detrimental life outcomes.”
“The research conducted in this lab is primarily focused on determining the factors that lead to poor control over drinking. This is defined as “drinking more than one intends to for longer periods of time.”
Prior to the pandemic, one of my students, Sophia Berberian, had expressed an interest in the subject of loneliness. At the time, we were collaborating with Federico Sanabria to gather translational data. This data is on the effects of social isolation on drinking.
In his research, Dr. Sanabria utilizes mice, whereas we normally make use of students from a college or university. We basically wanted to find out if there was a link between being lonely and having less control over drinking because of feeling more stressed.
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A study suggests that childhood loneliness predicts alcohol addiction.
According to Patock-Peckham, “the general focus of the lab is to explore early life events. Also on how those experiences impact our decisions to drink responsibly or not later on in life.”
“A significant portion of the ongoing research in the field of addictions has understudied women. As a result, we have dedicated ourselves to doing research on issues that aim to alleviate health inequities caused by sex differences.”
In the recently published research, 310 college students were asked to complete a questionnaire. This questionnaire consists of 20 questions that examine their levels of social isolation and unhappiness. This is with respect to the quality of interactions they had as children.
In addition to this, they filled out questionnaires on their levels of perceived stress. Also on alcohol use, impaired control and problematic drinking outcomes.
The researchers came to the conclusion that higher degrees of loneliness experienced as a kid were indirectly connected to more impaired control of alcohol consumption. This is also connected to more alcohol-related difficulties due to higher levels of stress.
Those individuals who, before the age of 12, stated that they had experienced feelings of isolation from others were more likely to report experiencing feelings of nervousness or tension in the present. Those who reported higher levels of stress were, as a result, more likely to agree with comments like this. “I have difficulties regulating the amount of alcohol I consume.”
Especially for women, a higher level of perceived stress was linked to more bad things happening when they drank. This includes things like driving while drunk or missing class because they had a hangover.
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Stress serves as a mediating mechanism between being a lonely kid before the age of 12
Patock-Peckham stated that “we did indeed find that stress serves as a mediating mechanism between being a lonely kid before the age of 12. Also, subsequent deregulated alcohol use later on in one’s early adulthood. ” “We did find that stress acts as a link between being a lonely kid before the age of 12 and then using alcohol in a way that isn’t healthy.”
She discussed the research’s relevance to real-world situations. “If you are feeling pressured, please find another outlet other than drinking since you are likely to drink too much. This, especially if you are a woman.”
In addition to this, it could be a good idea to make sure that children who suffered through the pandemic by themselves have some kind of social outlet available to them now. The friendships you make as a child are important and can protect you from a lot of bad things that can happen later in life, like drinking too much.
Other studies conducted on stress and drinking too much
Patock-Peckham and her research team had previously conducted a study in which they randomly assigned 210 people to one of four groups. Some of the groups experienced stressful circumstances. Others experienced a non-stressful environment.
The non-alcoholic beverages were given to one half of the participants, while the alcoholic beverages were given to the other half. The alcoholic beverage was equivalent to three cocktails. After that, for the next half an hour, the participants were free to help themselves to as many alcoholic beverages as they pleased from the bar.
“We are just coming off of a large federal grant from NIH/NIAA K01 AA024160-01A1 to study the impact of an acute stressor on social drinking behaviors in a simulated bar lab environment,” Patock-Peckham said.
“This grant will allow us to investigate how an acute stressor affects people’s drinking habits in social settings.” “We found that women drink more during a free drinking period (ad libitum). That is when exposed to just the social evaluative stressor (Trier Social Stress Test).”
However, men drank more if they received the Trier Social Stress Test in conjunction with three cocktails prior to the free drinking period.
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“We need to do more research on the themes of loneliness, stress, and drinking too much. These should be with more longitudinal and experimental alcohol self-administration studies. ”
This study is only a preliminary investigation into the pattern of links being studied. The collection of data for fundamental research on the self-administration of alcohol may cost as much as $800,000. This is why there is a significant need for financing in this field.
The Social Addictions Impulse Lab has the potential to accomplish a lot of good for the world in general. However, maintaining our funding is now one of our greatest challenges.
Because of the interruptions caused by COVID-19, we are no longer eligible for any government funds. So, without further financing, the laboratory is in grave danger of closing down. In an effort to keep the laboratory operational, Gage Reitzel, who will be attending Brown University in the upcoming academic year, ran a marathon.
The lab puts forth a lot of effort to help students from underrepresented groups. Also, those who are the first in their families to attend college achieve their goals.