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Addict Behav. 1990;15(2):137-46.

Reactivity to alcohol cues and induced moods in alcoholics.

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Department of Behavioral Sciences and Community Health, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington 06032.


It has been theorized that respondent conditioning processes in part underlie desire for alcohol and thus contribute to relapse after alcoholism treatment. One implication of this theory is that the relevant conditioned responses could be eliminated by respondent extinction, in which the alcoholic patient is exposed to alcohol-related stimuli while being prevented from consuming alcohol. However, exteroceptive cues such as the sight and smell of alcoholic beverages are not always sufficient to elicit desire for alcohol. In view of this, it has been suggested that interoceptive cues, such as mood states, may also play a role in eliciting desire for alcohol. To test this, eight alcoholic subjects were induced to experience negative or neutral moods on four separate days, and then exposed to the sight and smell of their favorite alcoholic drink, and to a neutral stimulus (seltzer water), in a within-subjects design. Results from this work indicate that: (a) negative moods can be reliably induced in the laboratory as confirmed by subjects' reports; (b) exposure to alcohol cues had no effect on desire for alcohol while subjects were in a relaxed, neutral mood state; (c) the presence of negative mood states alone appeared to be sufficient to elicit desire for alcohol in some subjects, regardless of whether alcohol or water was presented. These data argue that negative mood states may cue desire for alcohol independent of other cues. The data also suggest that reactivity to alcohol cues may be substantially reduced by relaxation.

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