Recoverability of Psychological Functioning Following Alcohol Abuse: Acquisition of Meaningful Synonyms

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drinking history & alcohol toxicity, prior vocabulary knowledge & recovery of ability to learn new vocabulary & meaningful synonyms, alcoholics, treatment implications

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Assessed the recovery of alcoholics' ability to learn meaningful verbal items after the cessation of drinking via 3 spaced administrations of the Synonym Learning Test (SLT) during a 1-mo inpatient alcohol treatment program. The SLT procedure also assessed Ss' vocabulary level. Three matched groups of 11 male alcoholics (mean ages 41.55, 45.45, and 43.36 yrs) were tested. The study design separated practice effects from actual recovery via the administration of the 1st testing to each group at a different time delay after drinking ceased—5, 15, and 25 days, respectively. To ascertain baseline SLT performance, a control group of 11 nonalcoholic hospitalized patients (mean age 37.55 yrs) were tested once. Results show that vocabulary knowledge was unimpaired by chronic alcohol abuse, whereas the ability to learn new vocabulary words was impaired immediately after cessation of drinking but recovered to normal levels by 2 wks postdrinking. Length of drinking history did not influence either vocabulary knowledge or new vocabulary learning. The correlation between new vocabulary learning and initial vocabulary suggested that SLT scores must be adjusted for vocabulary in future clinical use of the procedure. Implications for alcohol treatment are discussed.

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Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, v. 45, issue 6, p. 1023-1028