Moderate alcohol consumption prior to a traumatic event like a car crash or sexual assault has been linked to higher rates of flashbacks among victims.
Researchers from University College London also found, however, that no increase in flashbacks was reported by those who drank heavily before their trauma.
The study authors said that contextual memory loss — common in stressful situations — may be enhanced by moderate alcohol intake, allowing more involuntary recall of egocentric memories. Both kinds of memory are disrupted by heavy drinking, however.
“Many people who experience a personally traumatic event such as rape or a road traffic accident have consumed alcohol beforehand,” said researcher James Bisby. “For the first time, this research gives us an idea of how being under the influence of alcohol might contribute to our wellbeing later on.”
The study was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.