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Drug craving and addiction: integrating psychological and neuropsychopharmacological approaches.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, P.O. Box 1738, Rotterdam 3000 DR, The Netherlands.


In the present review, an integrated approach to craving and addiction is discussed, which is based on recent insights from psychology and neuropsychopharmacology. An integrated model explains craving and relapse in humans by the psychological mechanism of "attentional bias" and provides neuropsychopharmacological mechanisms for this bias. According to this model, cognitive processes mediate between drug stimulus and the subject's response to this stimulus and subsequent behavioral response (e.g., drug use, relapse). According to the model, a conditioned drug stimulus produces an increase in dopamine levels in the corticostriatal circuit, in particular the anterior cingulate gyrus, amygdala, and nucleus accumbens, which in turn serves to draw the subject's attention towards a perceived drug stimulus. This process results in motor preparation and a hyperattentive state towards drug-related stimuli that, ultimately, promotes further craving and relapse. Evidence for this attentional bias hypothesis is reviewed from both the psychopharmacological and the neuroanatomical viewpoints. The attentional bias hypothesis raises several suggestions for clinical approaches and further research.

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