Stimulant drugs such as amphetamines are widely abused by young adults who are looking to stay awake and increase their concentration. Previous studies have found an association between amphetamine abuse and the amount of alcohol consumed. A new study has found that there is a direct epidemiological link between alcohol consumption and prescription drug abuse.
Craig R. Rush, senior author of the study and Professor of Behavioral Science, Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Kentucky, and his colleagues wanted to build on previous research that showed that moderate drinkers were more sensitive to some of the effects of amphetamines than light drinkers.
Rush said the idea behind the current study was to be a follow-up study to the one that determined whether moderate drinkers were also more likely to seek out amphetamines, in addition to being more sensitive to its effects.
The researchers studied 33 people, dividing them into two groups: light drinkers and moderate drinkers. Over four studies, participants were given a placebo as well as both low and high doses of amphetamine. The participants then had a chance to earn up to eight capsules containing 12.5 percent of the previous dose by completing a computer task.
The researchers found that the high dose of amphetamines increased drug use in both light and moderate drinkers, whereas the low dose only increased drug use among the moderate drinkers. Moderate drinkers also were more likely to engage in the computer task to receive the higher dose of amphetamine.
This suggests that drinking moderate levels of alcohol could increase one’s vulnerability to the effects of stimulants such as amphetamine. More research is needed to examine the underlying mechanisms involved with stimulant abuse and alcohol consumption, but one possible explanation is that the moderate drinkers may have been sensitized to the rewarding effects of amphetamines because of increased drug use.
Mark T. Fillmore, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, said that researchers need to determine whether drinking heavily might produce a physiological change that causes people to be more sensitive to the rewarding effects of drugs like amphetamines.
Source: Science Daily, Alcohol Consumption May Increase Amphetamine Abuse, December 14, 2010