Alcohol can impair interoceptive accuracy in men, finds study

Alcohol can impair interoceptive accuracy in men, finds study

Drinking is the most common coping mechanism to deal with stress and anxiety symptoms. Due to the tendency, adults can develop an alcohol use disorder (AUD) over time. In fact, some researches show that individuals with a panic disorder are always at risk to have an AUD. Although prior studies have identified establishment of alcoholism due to anxiety, there remains uncertainty regarding what mediates the relationship between booze and the mental condition.

Now, a recent research has suggested the possibility of alcohol impairing the interoceptive sensitivity — the ability to accurately perceive one’s physiological state — thereby decreasing state of anxiety. According to the study, people, who are more accurate in sensing their heartbeat or able to track the pressure of blood, are at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder, including panic disorder.

It is one-of-its-kind study as the previous ones primarily discussed the role of alcohol in causing mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. So far, researchers have identified alcohol as a depressant and its potential to cause depression by altering the brain chemistry due to obstruction to the production of dopamine (the chemical responsible for feeling good). However, in the current study, the interoceptive awareness in people suffering from alcoholism is evaluated for the first time.

Heartbeat perception

The study analyzed 61 social drinkers who walked into the lab in small groups (four to six) on two days in a gap of one week. Every participant was randomly assigned to receiver targeting a blood alcohol content of .05 percent on one testing day. On the other testing day, participants were given placebo drinks with the order counter-balanced. On both the testing days, they were asked to get involved in heartbeat perception task at baseline, after an alcohol absorption period, and following physiological arousal was increased via exercise. The respondents were also asked to count their heartbeats on their own, while the actual number of heartbeats were recorded instrumentally.

Researchers found that the alcohol consumption in men reduced interoceptive accuracy relative to a placebo. They inferred that alcohol has the potential to the “interoceptive cortex,” which includes the dorsal posterior insular, anterior insular, prefrontal and cingulate cortices, and ventromedial thalamus. According to the researchers, the findings coincided with the past studies that identified moderate doses of alcohol to have affected other forms of perception such as depth perception and proprioception, in both men and women.

Dealing with dual diagnosis

The development or presence of a mental illness like anxiety alongside an addiction is known as dual diagnosis. Such co-existence of disorders is common in the U.S. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), more than 8 million adults had both any mental illness (AMI) and a substance use disorder (SUD) in that year. Besides, an estimated 2.6 million Americans aged 18 and above had co-existing serious mental illness (SMI) and SUDs in the past year. However, the majority of people suffering dual diagnosis go undiagnosed, further worsening their condition.

Treating dual diagnosis can be challenging as often either of the conditions goes undiagnosed and the condition together often form a vicious circle. Hence, it is always important to treat both the conditions simultaneously, as only then complete recovery is possible. It is always recommended to seek help from rehab centers that are certified in treating the condition. If you or a loved one is suffering dual diagnosis, seek help from the Dual Diagnosis Helpline. Call at our 24/7 helpline number (855) 981-6047 or chat online with one of our experts who can help you get in touch with one of the best dual diagnosis treatment centers near you.