Heavy drinkers develop tolerance to alcohol over time and may be able to perform certain tasks fine while intoxicated—but that doesn’t apply to more complex tasks like driving, suggests a new study.
Heavy drinkers develop behavioral tolerance to alcohol over time on some fine motor tasks, but not on more complex tasks, according to a study led by a VA San Diego Healthcare System researcher.
While heavy drinkers showed less impairment than light drinkers on a rote fine motor test over time, they did not perform better on a test involving more short-term memory, motor speed, and more complex cognitive processing.
The study offers new insight into the changes and problems that accompany excessive drinking. As the researchers explain, “The results have implications for our understanding of alcohol-induced impairments across neurobehavioral processes in heavy drinkers and their ongoing risks for alcohol-related consequences over time.”
Lead researcher Dr. Ty Brumback adds, “The most important thing about the study is that despite heavy drinkers’ extensive experience with alcohol, increased speed of metabolism, and lower self-perceived impairment, we show that on a more demanding task they are just as impaired as light drinkers.”
The study results were published in a March 2017 issue of the journal Psychopharmacology.