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J Stud Alcohol. 2005 May;66(3):354-60.

Alcohol cue reactivity in alcohol-dependent adolescents.

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  • 1Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs, Institute of Psychiatry, Medical University of South Carolina, 67 President Street, Charleston, South Carolina 29425, USA.



There is substantial evidence that adults with alcohol dependence show different responses (increased craving, increased salivation, changes in heart rate) to alcohol-related stimuli (i.e., alcohol cue reactivity) than nonalcoholics. Alcohol cue reactivity appears to be related to dependence severity and has been used to predict treatment outcomes, where more reactive alcoholics have poorer outcomes than less reactive alcoholics. Adolescents may also develop alcohol dependence, though it is uncertain whether they experience craving and cue reactivity in the presence of alcohol-associated stimuli.


To examine whether adolescents with alcohol dependence show alcohol cue reactivity, 28 alcoholic adolescents and 25 nonalcoholic adolescents (ages 14-19 years) were compared using a standard cue reactivity procedure, where participants view, hold and sniff different beverages, one of which is their preferred alcoholic beverage. Cue reactivity was assessed with subjective craving ratings, salivation (grams), and heart rate (beats per minute). Analyses were conducted by covarying response to control beverages.


Alcoholics responded with both greater craving and greater salivation to the alcohol cue (controlling for response to control cues) than did nonalcoholics, supporting the hypothesis that adolescent alcoholics show alcohol cue reactivity. Heart rate showed no differential cue effect between alcoholics and controls.


Findings support that adolescent alcoholics experience alcohol cue reactivity, as evidenced by increased salivation and subjective craving in the presence of alcohol-related stimuli. Investigation of treatments that may reduce alcohol craving and cue reactivity in adolescents with alcohol dependence is warranted.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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