Researchers at the Universitat Jaume I in Castellón, Spain, and McGill University in Montreal have found a relationship between the increased heartbeat some people experience after drinking a certain amount of alcohol and the risk of developing a personality that is sensitive to rewards and, hence, to addictions.
The study, which was published in the March edition of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, concludes that people who experience an increase in their heart rate after drinking alcohol are almost twice as likely to develop a personality that is sensitive to rewards, which is in turn linked to a higher predisposition to any type of addiction, claims César Ávila, one of the authors of the study, from the Department of Basic Psychology at the Universitat Jaume I.
“Other analyses have found the relationship runs in the opposite direction. For each point sensitivity to reward rises, there is a 21.2% increase in the likelihood of suffering rapid heartbeat after drinking alcohol,” explains Caroline Brunelle from the Department of Psychology at McGill University in Montreal.
The longitudinal study was conducted on a sample of 66 individuals with no previous experience with alcohol who were administered a small amount of ethanol while they were aged between 16 and 18 in order to determine what effect it had on their heart. When they reached the age of 21 they were given a questionnaire drawn up by researchers from the Department of Psychology at the Universitat Jaume I to measure their degree of sensitivity to rewards and to punishment.
“The idea is that when the first experience with a reinforcing stimulus, such as alcohol, occurs the organism reacts in different ways in different people and those that have a stronger predisposition to addictions are the ones whose organism reacts in a more vigorous way by increasing the rate at which their heart beats,” explains Ávila.
The findings of these studies have led the authors to believe that the change in heart rate could act as a tool that could be used to screen people with a risk of developing some type of addiction in the future.