Binge Drinking and Family History of Alcoholism are Associated with an Altered Developmental Trajectory of Impulsive Choice Across Adolescence

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Aims To test whether binge drinking, the density of familial alcoholism (FHD) and their interaction are associated with an altered developmental trajectory of impulsive choice across adolescence, and whether more life‐time drinks are associated with a greater change in impulsive choice across age. Design Alcohol‐naive adolescents, with varying degrees of FHD, were recruited as part of an ongoing longitudinal study on adolescent development, and were grouped based on whether they remained non‐drinkers (n = 83) or initiated binge drinking (n = 33) during follow‐up. During all visits, adolescents completed a monetary delay discounting task to measure impulsive choice. The effects of binge‐drinking status, FHD and their interaction on impulsive choice across adolescence were tested. Setting Developmental Brain Imaging Laboratory, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon, USA. Participants A total of 116 healthy male and female adolescents (ages 10–17 years at baseline) completed two to four visits between July 2008 and May 2016. Measurements Discounting rates were obtained based on adolescents' preference for immediate or delayed rewards. FHD was based on parent‐reported prevalence of alcohol use disorder in the participant's first‐ and second‐degree relatives. Binge‐drinking status was determined based on the number of recent binge‐drinking episodes. Findings There was a significant interaction effect of binge‐drinking status and FHD on impulsive choice across age (b = 1.090, P < 0.05, β = 0.298). In adolescents who remained alcohol‐naive, greater FHD was associated with a steeper decrease in discounting rates across adolescence (b = −0.633, P < 0.05, β = −0.173); however, this effect was not present in binge‐drinkers. Furthermore, total life‐time drinks predicted escalated impulsive choice (b = 0.002, P < 0.05, β = 0.295) in binge‐drinking adolescents. Conclusions A greater degree of familial alcoholism is associated with a steeper decline in impulsive choice across adolescence, but only in those who remain alcohol‐naive. Meanwhile, more life‐time drinks during adolescence is associated with increases in impulsive choice across age.