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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2011 Apr;98(2):196-202. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2010.12.022. Epub 2011 Jan 6.

The relationship between impulsivity and craving in cocaine- and methamphetamine-dependent volunteers.

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Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA.


Impulsivity and craving have been independently hypothesized to contribute to sustained drug use and relapse in addiction. The primary focus of this project was to determine the relationship between impulsivity and craving in 85 cocaine-dependent and 73 methamphetamine-dependent, non-treatment-seeking volunteers. Drug use was assessed with a 14-item, self-report drug and alcohol use questionnaire. Self report instruments utilized included the Barratt Impulsivity Scale (BIS) and the Visual Analog Scale (VAS), which probed "just before your last use of cocaine (for cocaine-dependent participants) or methamphetamine (for methamphetamine-dependent participants), how much craving did you experience?" The groups were similar with respect to recent use of cocaine or methamphetamine, alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) did not reveal significant differences between cocaine and methamphetamine groups for total impulsivity or total craving. Simple linear regression revealed correlations between total impulsivity and total craving in cocaine (r(2)=0.05, p≤0.03) and methamphetamine users (r(2)=0.09, p≤0.008). Participants were separated into high impulsivity (HIBIS) or low impulsivity (LOBIS) subgroups using a median split. ANOVA revealed significantly higher craving in the HIBIS group versus the LOBIS group in methamphetamine users (p≤0.02), but not in cocaine users. For both cocaine and methamphetamine groups, level of impulsivity and craving were found to be related to some drug use variables including years of alcohol use, severity of withdrawal, and craving level following drug use. Taken together, this study shows a marginal relationship between impulsivity and craving, which may further the understanding of motivational factors contributing to ongoing drug use and addiction in psychostimulant users.

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