Impaired control in heavy drinking and its association with alcohol craving and alcohol use disorder severity

Edén Sánchez, Carlos S. Cruz Fuentes, Corina Benjet, María Elena Medina-Mora



Introduction. Impaired control over drinking has been frequently cited in diverse theoretical descriptions regarding harmful alcohol use and is considered a DSM criterion for alcohol use disorder. Differences in the frequency of endorsement of impaired control have been viewed as a reflection of the severity of the problem. Moreover, it has been posited that the ability to place a limit on alcohol consumption may be mediated through enhanced craving.

Objective. In this study, we addressed the relationship between impaired control, self-reported craving, and alcohol dependence severity among heavy drinkers.

Method. We conducted a latent class analysis of impaired control dimensions (perceived control, failed control, and attempted control) of 208 heavy drinkers. To determine whether the identified classes could represent different forms of severity of the disorder, the best-fit model was contrasted with scores on the Alcohol Dependence Scale. Furthermore, we assessed the relationship between impaired control criteria (using the Impaired Control Scale [ICS]) with alcohol craving.

Results. We identified a three-class solution based on impaired control severity. A graded increase of the craving scores and alcohol severity among the three classes was also identified. Only the ICS items comprising perceived control and partially those related to failed control, but not those evaluating attempted control, distinguished the gradient among the latent classes.

Discussion and conclusion. This study provides further support of the proposal of a unidimensional continuum of severity among heavy drinkers and strengthens the theoretical relationship between impaired control and alcohol craving.


Alcoholism; alcohol-related disorders; craving; executive function

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