Higher levels of trait impulsiveness and a less effective response inhibition are linked to more intense cue-elicited craving for alcohol in alcohol-dependent patients
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Cue-elicited craving is a well-researched phenomenon in alcohol literature. However, not all alcohol-dependent people display the same reactivity to alcohol cues. Personality factors such as multiple impulsivity traits may be responsible for individual differences in cue reactivity by modulating its intensity. Nevertheless, there has been a scarcity of empirical studies testing this assumption in alcohol literature.
The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of response inhibition and trait impulsiveness on cue-elicited craving for alcohol in alcohol-dependent drinkers.
Participants (n = 41) were inpatients of the private clinic U-Center, Netherlands. Alcohol exposure took place in a real bar–restaurant close to the premises of the clinic, and participants were exposed to real alcohol cues. Response inhibition was assessed with the stop-signal task and trait impulsiveness with the Barratt impulsivity scale version 11.
The cue exposure was successful as alcohol-dependent patients experienced higher craving for alcohol when exposed to alcohol rather than to neutral cues. Additionally, both response inhibition and trait impulsiveness predicted cue-elicited craving for alcohol. Trait impulsiveness predicted both the absolute craving in the bar–restaurant and the increase in cue-elicited craving during the whole alcohol cue exposure, while response inhibition predicted only the former.
The results clearly implicate both trait impulsiveness and response inhibition in the modulation of cue-elicited craving in alcohol dependence. Theoretical and methodological issues in the findings and their clinical implications in alcohol treatment and relapse are discussed.
KeywordsAlcohol dependence Cue reactivity Craving Alcohol cue exposure Impulsivity Response inhibition Trait impulsiveness
We are grateful to Ingrid Weijnen, director of U-Center, who enabled us to conduct this study. We would also like to thank the U-Center patients for their cooperation during this study and the therapists and staff of the clinic for their invaluable support in recruiting and diagnosing participants.
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