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Language Clues to Drinking Problems

Throughout the ages, people have used different words to describe how they felt when drunk. In the 1920s, "blotto" was used. In the '50s, "honkers" was commonly used.

Researchers from Penn State now believe the language a young person uses to describe how they feel when they drink may help identify those at the greatest risk of abusing alcohol.

Their results have been published in the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.[i]

The Penn State team found there are four distinct 'classes' of drinkers: what they call happy drinkers, relaxed drinkers, buzzed drinkers, and multi-experience drinkers.

According to the research team, adults from 18 to 25 are at a high-risk for dangerous alcohol use, with roughly 37% of them reporting binge drinking—defined as five or more drinks in two hours for men or four or more for women—at least once in the past month. Ten percent of this age cohort currently reports binge drinking on five or more days in the past month.

Linden-Carmichael, the lead author on the study, believes understanding drinking habits of young adults is vital to effective intervention. Additionally, recent research suggests that how drunk someone feels may be a better predictor of risky behavior than an objective measure of how drunk they actually are, like blood alcohol content (BAC).

According to the news source, Medical Express:

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that most of the participants could be sorted into four categories, each with their own vocabulary and habits.

The largest group was happy drinkers, who made up 31% of participants and who mostly reported feeling happy when drinking. The next group, at 24%, were relaxed drinkers who reported feeling happy, relaxed and buzzed. Buzzed drinkers made up 18% of participants and reported feeling buzzed and dizzy. Relaxed drinkers tended to report heavier alcohol use, and buzzed drinkers tended to report drinking less often.

"Finally, we had the group that we called the 'multi-experience drinker class,' which made up 27% of our participants," Linden-Carmichael said. "They reported feeling buzzed, tipsy, drunk, and were also the only group to report 'wasted' as a common word to describe how they feel while drinking. So this group might be the one most likely to drink for the purpose of getting drunk."

The Penn State team believes that by studying these language differences, addiction specialists may be able to gain insight into the motivations for drinking and that those motivations may give help clinicians understand how much someone is drinking and how often.

If you are struggling with an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol and need help in Connecticut, New Hampshire, eastern Massachusetts, Florida, or Southern Maine, the recovery teams at Aware Recovery Care are here to help. Our unique model of care is giving clients a significantly better chance of recovery when compared to traditional inpatient rehab care. To learn more or to talk to one of our Recovery Specialists, visit www.awarerecoverycare.com.


[i] Linden-Carmichael, A. N., Allen, H. K., & Lanza, S. T. (2020). The language of subjective alcohol effects: Do young adults vary in their feelings of intoxication? Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/pha000...

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