, Volume 221, Issue 4, pp 701–708 | Cite as

Drug-related cues exacerbate decision making and increase craving in heroin addicts at different abstinence times

  • Gui-Bin Wang
  • Xiao-Li Zhang
  • Li-Yan Zhao
  • Li-Li Sun
  • Ping Wu
  • Lin Lu
  • Jie Shi
Original Investigation



Relapse is a persistent problem in the management of addiction. Drug-related cues are powerful instigators of relapse. Impulsive decision making may contribute to relapse through a poorly considered assessment of the consequences of drug use. Drug cues robustly increase subjective craving, which is frequently associated with relapse.


The present study explored the effects of drug-related cues on decision making and craving in heroin addicts at different abstinence times: 1, 3, 12, and 24 months.


The 75 male participants were given 5 min exposure to neutral and drug-associated cues while decision making performance, craving, blood pressure, heart rate, and emotional state pre- and post-exposure were assessed. The Iowa Gambling Task was used to evaluate decision making ability in heroin addicts.


Drug-related cues exacerbated impulsive decision making and increased craving, heart rate, and systolic pressure in heroin addicts at all abstinence times.


Drug-related cues aggravated decision making and increased craving in former heroin addicts who had been drug-free for 1–24 months, which might have significant clinical implications for the prevention of relapse.


Drug-related cues Decision making Craving Heroin addicts Different abstinence times 



This work was supported in part by the National Basic Research Program of China (no. 2009CB522000), Natural Science Foundation of Beijing Municipality (no. 7092058), and Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 81000571 and 91132719).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they do not have any conflicts of interest (financial or otherwise) related to the data presented in this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gui-Bin Wang
    • 1
  • Xiao-Li Zhang
    • 1
  • Li-Yan Zhao
    • 1
  • Li-Li Sun
    • 1
  • Ping Wu
    • 1
  • Lin Lu
    • 1
  • Jie Shi
    • 1
  1. 1.National Institute on Drug DependencePeking UniversityBeijingChina

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