Benjamin Butterworth

There is a strong link between exposure to trauma, such as violent offences and sexual abuse and alcohol use. In Scotland almost half (49%) of common assault records make reference to the consumption of alcohol (National Statistics Publication for Scotland, 2015/16). Furthermore, victims and witnesses may turn to alcohol after trauma exposure to alleviate trauma related symptoms, such as intrusive thoughts and memory flashbacks (Kaysen, et al., 2006). It is surprising that only few studies to date have examined the combined effect of alcohol and trauma on memory and intrusive thoughts (Bisby et al., 2009; Bisby et al., 2010), and no research has investigated the effects of alcohol on memory after the experience of trauma. 

 In a series of studies, this research project will examine the effect of alcohol before and after trauma exposure on episodic and intrusive memory. A mixed-methods approach will be used, consisting of experimental laboratory studies and follow-up individual semi-structured qualitative interviews. A better understanding of how alcohol might influence memories for traumatic events may help to develop effective interventions for individuals suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol abuse. In addition to practical implications, findings from this research will provide core theoretical insights towards our understanding of the mechanisms underlying alcohol–induced memory impairments. Furthermore, this research contributes to economic and societal impact by opening up dialogue between academics and practitioners (e.g. NHS, PTSD UK, Victim Support Scotland, and Police Scotland) about the effects of alcohol use/misuse on memory for traumatic events.