College of Psychology: Faculty Articles

Title

Training Social Drinking As an Alternative to Abstinence for Alcoholics

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1971

Keywords

Alcohol Drinking, Aversive Therapy, Behavior Therapy, Electroshock, Sex Factors

Publication Title

Behavior Therapy

ISSN

0005-7894

Volume

2

Issue/No.

1

Abstract

Thirteen hospitalized male alcoholics volunteered as subjects for a study to explore whether bar drinking habits typical of alcoholics (drinking straight liquor in large gulps and large amounts) could be changed to bar drinking habits typical of social drinkers (drinking mixed drinks in small sips and small amounts). During experimental drinking sessions in an especially equipped bar the subjects could avoid shock by drinking like a typical social drinker but received painful electric fingershock, 30% above or at individual pain threshold, whenever they behaved like alcoholics. The conditioning contingencies were explained to the subjects before the beginning of the experiment.

Four of the subjects emitted the required behavioral repertoire in an exaggerated fashion from the first day of drinking: they never ordered more than three mixed drinks, and consumed these in exceedingly small sips (30 or more). The remaining nine subjects learned these behaviors over a period of 12–14 sessions. No attempt was made to establish the generalization of this newly acquired behavior after discharge from the hospital. The implications of the findings are discussed.

DOI

10.1016/S0005-7894(71)80142-9