Black individuals who experience racial discrimination more likely to crave alcohol

Alcohol craving is associated with relapse following alcohol use disorder (AUD) treatment. A new study is the first to examine how distinct experiences of interpersonal racial discrimination contribute to elevated alcohol craving. Findings will be shared at the 46th annual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcohol (RSA) in Bellevue, Washington.

Cravings can be intense and challenging to not act on. Research has also shown that stress increases craving for alcohol and can precipitate a lapse or relapse following AUD treatment. My team is invested in identifying influences of inequities in alcohol-related problems and, given prior research showing associations between general stress and craving, we wanted to understand how specific experiences of discrimination may increase alcohol craving."

Sarah L. Pedersen, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology, University of Pittsburgh

Pedersen will discuss her study's findings at the RSA meeting on Sunday, 25 June 2023.

Data for this study were drawn from a larger ongoing alcohol administration study: 140 young adults (44% self-identified as Black or African American, 56% self-identified as White or European American) who consume alcohol at least weekly completed a survey and a 17-day assessment of acute alcohol craving as well as experienced microaggressions.

"The Racial and Ethnic Microaggressions Scale is a 28-item self-report measure examining five domains of racial discrimination experiences during the previous six months," explained Pedersen. "Examples include: 'Someone told me that they don't see color,' 'I was ignored at school or work because of my race,' and 'someone assumed I was poor because of my race.'"

Black individuals reported higher average levels of alcohol craving across the 17-day assessment window compared to White individuals.

Pedersen believes that experiences of interpersonal racial discrimination contribute to increases in craving alcohol to cope with racial stress. "These results have treatment implications related to promoting the development of emotion regulation skills and strategies after experiencing racial discrimination, and policy and training implications regarding the deleterious effects of exposure to interpersonal racial discrimination," she said. Additional analyses by Pedersen's team will integrate momentary experiences of discrimination and subsequent alcohol craving in a naturalistic environment.

"My team uses a community-engaged approach and we have worked closely with community members to understand their needs, experiences, and ideas for research," added Pedersen. "Our community partners are centered in our research and have been incredible contributors to this study; including the interpretation and presentation of these results."

Pedersen will present these findings, "Examination of interpersonal racial discrimination in relation to naturalistic alcohol craving," during the RSA 2023 meeting in Bellevue, Washington on Sunday, 25 June 2023. More information can be found at RSoA on Twitter @RSAposts.

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