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Sexual Assault and Alcohol Use: Exploring the Self-Medication Hypothesis

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Though a link between sexual victimization and alcohol use has been well documented, the mechanisms underlying this relationship remain unclear. The current study used path analysis to examine the role of self-reported levels of psychological distress and the function of alcohol use as indirect pathways between adult sexual assault and alcohol use. Participants were 318 undergraduate female victims and nonvictims of adult sexual assault. Results showed that a history of sexual assault was associated with increased psychological distress, which in turn contributed to alcohol use via negative reinforcement. Taken together, these findings provided support for the hypothesis that women who have been sexually assaulted consume alcohol, in part, to self-medicate. The implications for future research are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2002

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