The Language of Subjective Alcohol Effects: Do Young Adults Vary in Their Feelings of Intoxication?

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6 Scopus citations


Among young adults, subjective feelings of alcohol’s effects often guide risky decision making. The majority of studies measuring subjective effects have used singular indices (“How drunk do you feel?”) which limits our understanding of young adults’ full range of subjective states and their individual differences in subjective effects language. Toward a more in-depth understanding of the heterogeneity among alcohol users based on their subjective experiences of alcohol’s effects, we identified latent classes of individuals based on their self-generated language describing feelings after drinking and compared these classes across demographic and drinking characteristics. Participants (N = 323, 54% women, 68% White, Ages 18 –25 years) were recruited using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk). Participants listed words they would use to describe how they feel after drinking low, moderate, and heavy amounts of alcohol. Four latent classes of young adults emerged: “happy drinkers” (31%) primarily reported feeling “happy” when drinking; “relaxed drinkers” (24%) reported feeling happy, relaxed, and buzzed; “buzzed drinkers” (18%) reported feeling buzzed and dizzy; and “multiexperience drinkers” (27%) reported feeling buzzed, tipsy, drunk, and wasted. Relaxed drinkers indicated heavier alcohol use and buzzed drinkers reported lower drinking frequency. Classes did not differ by demo-graphic characteristics. Young adult alcohol users can be distinguished based on the language they use to describe their feelings of intoxication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)670-678
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental and clinical psychopharmacology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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