Pain and Alcohol Consumption in Virtual Reality

Christina Gilmour, Shelby Blaes, Nicholas J. Bush, Darya Vitus, Ryan W. Carpenter, Michael Robinson, Jeff Boissoneault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Research suggests situational pain may motivate alcohol consumption, suggesting that pain may be an antecedent for problematic drinking behavior. In this pilot project, we assessed the effect of a painful thermal stimulus on drinking topography in a virtual reality bar environment using real alcohol-containing beverages. We also examined psychosocial factors that may account for individual differences in pain as an antecedent for alcohol use. Participants (N = 20,Mage = 25.65 years, 55% female, 15% Hispanic/Latino/a/x) completed a psychosocial screening battery before completing two counterbalanced alcohol selfadministration sessions. In each, participants experienced either painful heat (44 °C) or nonnoxious warmth (38 °C). Sip interval (s) and sip volume (g) were measured. Effects of pain on drinking topography were assessed using multilevel models. Multilevel models assessed associations of pain-related changes in topography with hypothesized vulnerability factors. Analyses indicated a significant interaction of pain condition and sex on sip interval (b = −.16.96, p =.015, 95% CI [−30.75, −2.97]), such that painful heat significantly decreased sip interval in men (b = 16.38) but not women (b = −.45). No effect of pain on sip volume was detected (p >.49). Exploratory analyses indicated significant interactions such that the effect of the painful heat condition was stronger in individuals with higher levels of greater negative urgency but the opposite effect for pain catastrophizing. Results suggest acute pain has sex-contingent effects on drinking topography, such that men drank more rapidly while experiencing painful heat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-442
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 29 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the Center for Pain Research and Behavioral Health at the University of Florida. This funding source had no other involvement than financial support. The authors have no financial or other relationships that pose a conflict of interest. All authors included contributed in a significant way to the article. All authors have read and approved the final article

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Psychological Association


  • alcohol
  • drinking topography
  • pain
  • virtual reality

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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