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Psychol Addict Behav. 2006 Dec;20(4):425-35.

Trauma-focused imaginal exposure for individuals with comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder and alcohol dependence: revealing mechanisms of alcohol craving in a cue reactivity paradigm.

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Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, The University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS, USA.


With a sample (N = 43) of participants meeting current diagnostic criteria for both alcohol dependence and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the authors tested the hypothesis that alcohol craving elicited by a trauma cue might be attenuated if trauma-elicited negative emotion were reduced following trauma-focused imaginal exposure. In a laboratory-based experiment, participants were randomly assigned to either trauma-focused imaginal exposure or imagery-based relaxation. A cue reactivity paradigm was used to assess alcohol craving prior to, and after completion of, the 6 clinical sessions. Attrition was high but did not differ between experimental conditions. For study completers, PTSD symptoms decreased in the exposure condition but not in the relaxation condition. Alcohol craving and distress elicited by trauma images decreased in the exposure condition but did not change in the relaxation condition. Results support the hypothesis that negative emotion is a mechanism of alcohol craving.

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