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Drug Alcohol Depend. 1997 Oct 25;48(1):25-31.

Imagery of craving in opiate addicts undergoing detoxification.

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  • 1Psychopharmacology Unit, Medical School, University of Bristol, UK.


Craving is a significant factor in opiate addiction that is associated with drug-dependence and in relapse to drug use after treatment. In order to better understand the psychological and physiological mechanisms of craving for opiates, we have developed an imagery-based procedure using personal verbal descriptions of craving in abstinent opiate addicts. Thirteen opiate addicts in detoxification were required to imagine and describe their craving experiences while autonomic measures of heart rate and arterial pressure were taken. Subjects displayed a significant increase in systolic blood pressure and heart rate while describing drug craving compared with neutral descriptions. Furthermore, an increase in systolic blood pressure during imagery of craving descriptions compared with neutral descriptions was observed. These results provide preliminary evidence that imagery is powerful in eliciting craving for opiates, as indicated by subjective ratings and autonomic measures. The implications of the results of this paper for the cue-exposure paradigm and contemporary models of addiction are being discussed.

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