Newswise — Heavy drinking can have a number of negative consequences, including sex that is later regretted.  Low sensitivity (LS) to alcohol’s effects – which characterizes the person who can “drink everyone under the table” – is a known risk factor for heavy drinking and its consequences. This study investigated LS and regretted sex from an unusual perspective, asking whether LS could be protective in some contexts, given that LS drinkers are generally less impaired from drinking at a given level. More specifically, the investigators tested whether LS was associated with differences in reports by men and women of alcohol-related regretted sex.

Researchers recruited 801 adults (408 men, 393 women) aged 21-35 years for a study of alcohol’s effects on cognition. All participants reported on their alcohol sensitivity, typical alcohol use, and alcohol consequences (including regretted sex).

At a given level of alcohol consumption, and controlling for the experience of other alcohol-related consequences, a reduced sensitivity to alcohol appeared to protect women, but not men, against the risk of alcohol-related regretted sex. The authors speculated that this effect might be because low- and high-sensitivity women experience different degrees of impairment at a given drinking level, possibly leading to differences in their perceptions of risk. They also suggested that future research should investigate the relationship between alcohol sensitivity and impaired risk perception, and how it relates to the risk of sex that is later regretted.  Finally, they underscored that, although LS seems protective in some contexts, LS women generally experience more frequent adverse consequences from drinking because they generally drink more heavily than women who are more sensitive to alcohol’s impairing effects.

Journal Link: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research