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Disinhibition and undergraduate drinking behavior

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  • Psychology
  • Behavioral|Health Sciences
  • Public Health|Education
  • Higher
  • Medicine


Undergraduate alcohol use has been identified as a public health concern. Disinhibitory experiences---thoughts, feelings or behaviors typically controlled when not drinking---appear to be common among undergraduate drinkers and potentially offer a means of identifying which students may be engaging in high-risk drinking. A multi-dimensional scale to assess drinking-induced disinhibition was developed for use in a prospective study conducted with a sample of undergraduates (N = 337) first assessed during their freshman year and then followed up during their sophomore year ( N = 203). The ten-item Drinking-Induced Disinhibition Scale (DIDS) is comprised of three subscales assessing euphoric/social (e.g., "hyperactivity"), dysphoric (e.g., "expressing stronger feelings of sadness than when not drinking") and sexual disinhibition (e.g., "hooking up with someone who you are not dating") along with a single item assessing the experience of "decreased inhibitions." The measure had good internal consistency reliability, although test-retest reliability was not quite as high. Preliminary construct validity analyses largely conformed to predictions. ^ The individual subscales of the DIDS were characterized by differential patterns of association with drinking outcomes (i.e., frequency of binge drinking, impaired control of alcohol use and alcohol-related problems), alternate measures of disinhibition (i.e., sensation seeking and impaired control) and other predictor variables (i.e., stress and peer network drinking measures). Endorsement of euphoric/social disinhibition declined from Time 1 to Time 2 and appeared to be the least problematic of the three types of disinhibition. Endorsement of dysphoric disinhibition remained stable from Time 1 to Time 2 and was associated with reports of alcohol-related problems. In contrast with the other two subscales, sexual disinhibition increased from Time 1 to Time 2 and was associated with greater risk of frequent binge drinking and alcohol-related problems at Time 2 than at Time 1. Implications of these findings to broader issues of risk for alcohol dependence and its treatment are discussed along with possible future directions for research on disinhibition and high-risk drinking behavior. ^

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