Methods: Young adults (N = 100, Mage = 21, 98% undergraduates) were recruited on or near a large northeastern university. Participants were eligible if they reported engaging in heavy drinking (4+ drinks for females and 5+ drinks for males) at least once a week over the past calendar year or engaging in heavy drinking at least once in a typical week during the academic year. During a 1-hour baseline session participants completed questionnaires and received training on the SCRAM device. Following the baseline session, participants wore the device in their day-to-day lives for 5 consecutive days (Wednesday through Monday) and completed ecological momentary assessments three times per day and every 30 minutes during drinking episodes.
Discussion: Examination of drinking episode plots of TAC revealed non-uniformity in the shape of intoxication functions; for example, some episodes exhibit multiple peaks and valleys. This reveals the difficulty of making comparisons of episodes based on typical metrics of intoxication. We provide exemplars of drinking episodes and the appropriateness/capacity of different characterizations to capture the nuances of real-life drinking experiences. For example, participants similar on some characteristics (e.g., AUC) may have meaningfully different episodes – with such differences able to be captured by complementary metrics (e.g., mean TAC and length of episode). We argue that effective characterization of drinking episodes will require the use of multiple metrics, and careful consideration of the features that truly differentiate potentially harmful drinking episodes from those that may be more typical.