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J Psychopharmacol. 1998;12(1):15-22.

Conditioning factors in drug abuse: can they explain compulsion?

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  • 1Veterans Affairs Medical Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104-6178, USA.


There is a good deal of clinical evidence suggesting that compulsion to resume drug taking is an important part of the addiction syndrome. The symptoms comprising motivation to resume drug use, namely craving and compulsion, have been studied experimentally in human subjects. While much work remains to be done, there is evidence showing that these symptoms are influenced by learning. The research has been guided by animal studies demonstrating that drug effects can be conditioned. Much attention has been directed toward demonstrating the existence of drug conditioning in human addicts and exploring the neurological structures that may underlie such learned responses. We do not yet know the relative importance of learning in the overall phenomenon of relapse, and treatments based on conditioning principles are still under investigation.

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