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Study Links Stress-Related Impulsivity in College Women and Alcohol Dependence

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College women who act impulsively when they are in distress are at higher risk for alcohol dependence, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Georgia studied 319 women in their first semester of college, an important time in students’ development of drinking habits, Science Daily reports. Of these women, 235 were drinkers. All participants took a screening test that asked about drinking behavior and alcohol use disorder symptoms.

The study found women who tended to act rashly when they experience negative emotions were more likely to have an increase in alcohol dependence during their first semester. Those who acted rashly under stress and said they wanted to drink to change emotional experiences had the biggest increases in symptoms.

The study appears in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

“College women should learn to plan ahead when they go drinking, in order to reduce their risk for problems,” Gregory Smith of the University of Kentucky, commented in a news release. “Women who tend to get impulsive when distressed should seek training from mental health professionals on effective ways to avoid impulsive actions that prove harmful. Parents and college administrators should not underestimate the risks associated with heavy drinking during the college years.”

Lead researcher Monika Kardacz Stojek added, “It seems that women who know that they tend to act without thinking when they are upset should be aware that they might be more at risk for negative consequences from drinking if they impulsively drink while in that negative mood.”

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