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Study: The smell of alcohol is irresistable

The small study in London suggests smell is part of why alcoholics have difficulty abstaining.
By Stephen Feller   |   March 17, 2016 at 4:42 PM

ORMSKIRK, England, March 17 (UPI) -- The smell of alcohol makes it difficult for people to control their behavior, suggesting smell is part of what makes it difficult for alcoholics to refrain from drinking, according to researchers in England.

A small study at Edge Hill University found the smell of alcohol affects peoples ability to control their ability to react to or understand information, according to a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

"We know that alcohol behaviours are shaped by our environment including who we're with and the settings in which we drink," Dr. Rebecca Monk, a professor of psychology at Edge Hill University, said in a press release.

To find out if sense of smell plays a role, the researchers recruited 40 people who were given a face mask either laced with alcohol or a non-alcoholic citrus solution. Both groups were then asked to complete a computerized go/no-go association test, meant to measure reaction time, response accuracy and false alarm rates.

For the test, participants had to press a button when they saw either the letter K or a picture of a beer. Overall, alcohol-related visual cues elicited lower false alarm rates, slower reaction times and higher accuracy rates, however false alarm rates -- those who pressed a button when neither of the alcoholic images were shown -- were much higher for participants inhaling alcohol.

"Our hope is that by increasing our understanding of how context shapes substance-use behaviors, we will be able to make interventions more sensitive to the different situations in which people consume substances," said Derek Heim, a researcher and professor at Edge Hill University.

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