Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

pp 8-9

Abstinence Violation Effect

  • Susan E. CollinsAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, Harborview Medical Center Email author 
  • , Katie WitkiewitzAffiliated withUniversity of New Mexico




The abstinence violation effect (AVE) refers to the negative cognitive (i.e., internal, stable, uncontrollable attributions; cognitive dissonance) and affective responses (i.e., guilt, shame) experienced by an individual after a return to substance use following a period of self-imposed abstinence from substances (Curry, Marlatt, & Gordon, 1987).


AVE in the Context of the Relapse Process

The AVE was introduced into the substance abuse literature within the context of the “relapse process” (Marlatt & Gordon, 1985, p. 37). Relapse has been variously defined, depending on theoretical orientation, treatment goals, cultural context, and target substance (Miller, 1996; White, 2007). It is, however, most commonly used to refer to a resumption of substance-use behavior after a period of abstinence from substances (Miller, 1996). The term relapse may be used to describe a prolonged return to substance use, whereas lapse may be used to d ...

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