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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2011 Jan;72(1):158-62.

Does alcohol craving decrease with increasing age? Results from a cross-sectional study.

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Center for Addiction Research, Department of Psychiatry, Socialpsychiatry and Psychotherapy, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Straße 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany.



Long-term studies on patients with impulsive behavior have shown a decrease of symptoms with increasing age. Alcohol craving has many analogies in psychopathology with obsessive-compulsive behavior patterns. The aim of the present study was to find evidence of a possible decrease of craving in elderly alcohol-dependent patients.


One hundred ninety-eight alcohol-dependent patients at the beginning of alcohol withdrawal therapy were included in this study. The extent of craving was measured using the Obsessive Compulsive Drinking Scale on the day of hospital admission before starting the detoxification regime and 1 week after admission.


Linear regression analysis showed a significant negative association between craving and age after 1 week of treatment (no association at admission). T test for independent samples confirmed lower obsessive-compulsive craving in older patients.


The lack of association between craving and age at the beginning of the detoxification can be explained by the influence of other different (e.g., neurobiological) parameters during acute withdrawal. At the end of the physical detoxification after 1 week of treatment, a significant negative association between patient's age and Obsessive Compulsive Drinking Scale score occurred, which points to a decrease of alcohol craving in later years. Alterations in endocrinological functions or in mesolimbic neurotransmission are discussed as possible reasons for this finding.

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