Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Stephen A. Maisto


alcohol use, experimental pain, negative affect, pain

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Identifying determinants of alcohol consumption remains an important approach to prevent or reduce harmful use. Recent work suggests one such determinant may be physical pain; however, current research is unable to discern causality. Therefore, the goal of this study was to test experimental pain as a determinant of self-reported urge to drink, intention to use alcohol, and alcohol demand (as proxies for ad-lib alcohol consumption). Secondarily, this study aimed to investigate negative affect as a mediator of this relation. We hypothesized that participants randomized to undergo experimental pain induction (vs. no pain) would report increases in proxies of alcohol use and that these effects would be mediated by increased negative affect. Participants included healthy undergraduate students who were moderate to heavy drinkers (N = 61). Pain was induced using a novel capsaicin-heat paradigm intended to approximate features of clinical pain. Main effects were tested using multiple hierarchical regressions and mediation was tested using the PROCESS macro for SPSS. Results confirmed that participants who underwent experimental pain induction subsequently endorsed greater urge to drink and intention to consume alcohol; levels of alcohol demand were unaffected by the manipulation. Increases in negative affect mediated the effects of urge to drink and intention to consume alcohol. This study provides the first experimental evidence that physical pain can be a potent antecedent of urge and intention to consume alcohol. Analyses also indicate that pain-related negative affect underlies this relation. Findings raise the possibility that individuals with co-occurring pain may develop unique Alcohol Use Disorder profiles that warrant tailored intervention.


Open Access



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