Acute stress elicits stronger craving for alcohol in Black individuals when compared to whites, reported scientists from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in a paper published today in Addiction.
Despite widely documented inequities with regard to alcohol use among minority people in the U.S., studies to understand the social and structural factors that influence these outcomes have been limited. This study highlights the need to examine inequalities in social determinants and health in order to devise culturally informed interventions for alcohol-related disorders.
We now have evidence that alcohol and stress cravings are stronger in Black people. It’s a very real result.
Sarah Pedersen Ph.D., co-author Associate Professor of psychology and psychology, University of Pittsburgh
A study conducted by the National Survey found that nearly 15 million Americans aged 12 and over have been diagnosed with alcohol-related disorders (or AUD). The effects of AUD go beyond the individual’s life and health and impact their families, friends and professional lives.
Research has previously revealed that Black Americans experience more chronic stress as a result of structural racism. To better know how structural and social inequities can be exacerbated, and whether their effects differ for Black and white adults in the U.S., Pedersen and colleagues provided participants with a smartphone app which sent out six daily reminders to track the level of stress and alcohol cravings over a 10-day period that included two weekends, a time of the week during which people traditionally drink more.
The purpose of the study was to comprehend the immediate processes that precede drinking behaviour. Conducting the research outside of the controlled laboratory environment was crucial as the types of stressors that people experience in their daily lives are varied and difficult to accurately simulate.
Researchers discovered that those who were more stressed were more likely to seek alcohol, regardless of their income. However, even more important, momentary increases in stress were associated with increased craving for alcohol at the next test only in Black individuals and suggests a mechanism of drinking alcohol to manage stress.
These findings show that there is a potential to create mobile technology that can address cravings for alcohol in the present. They also suggest that a combination of intervention that is just-in time and policy adjustments that target downstream stressors such as structural racism could be particularly effective in reducing risks of drinking for Black people.
“The lasting effects of structural racism could be tightening associations between momentary stressors and alcohol consumption” said Pedersen. “Rectifying discriminatory policies that persist for communities of color, as well as creating culturally sensitive interventions to help people deal with anxiety in the present is a key element to addressing inequities in alcohol-related disorders at the root.”
Pedersen S.L., and others. (2021). Momentary Associations Between Stress and Alcohol Craving In the Naturalistic Environment: Differential Associations for Black and White Young Adults. Addiction. doi.org/10.1111/add.15740.
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