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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2010 Jun 1;109(1-3):57-64. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2009.12.007. Epub 2010 Jan 12.

Impact of severity of drug use on discrete emotions recognition in polysubstance abusers.

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Dept. Personalidad, Evaluación y Tratamiento Psicológico, Universidad de Granada, 18071 Granada, Spain.


Neuropsychological studies support the association between severity of drug intake and alterations in specific cognitive domains and neural systems, but there is disproportionately less research on the neuropsychology of emotional alterations associated with addiction. One of the key aspects of adaptive emotional functioning potentially relevant to addiction progression and treatment is the ability to recognize basic emotions in the faces of others. Therefore, the aims of this study were: (i) to examine facial emotion recognition in abstinent polysubstance abusers, and (ii) to explore the association between patterns of quantity and duration of use of several drugs co-abused (including alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, heroin and MDMA) and the ability to identify discrete facial emotional expressions portraying basic emotions. We compared accuracy of emotion recognition of facial expressions portraying six basic emotions (measured with the Ekman Faces Test) between polysubstance abusers (PSA, n=65) and non-drug using comparison individuals (NDCI, n=30), and used regression models to explore the association between quantity and duration of use of the different drugs co-abused and indices of recognition of each of the six emotions, while controlling for relevant socio-demographic and affect-related confounders. Results showed: (i) that PSA had significantly poorer recognition than NDCI for facial expressions of anger, disgust, fear and sadness; (ii) that measures of quantity and duration of drugs used significantly predicted poorer discrete emotions recognition: quantity of cocaine use predicted poorer anger recognition, and duration of cocaine use predicted both poorer anger and fear recognition. Severity of cocaine use also significantly predicted overall recognition accuracy.

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