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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1999 Aug;23(8):1386-94.

Naltrexone's effect on cue-elicited craving among alcoholics in treatment.

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Providence VA Medical Center, Brown University, Rhode Island 02912, USA.



Advancing knowledge of biobehavioral effects of interventions can result in improved treatments. Thus, a standardized laboratory cue reactivity assessment has been developed and validated to assess the cognitive and psychophysiological responses to a simulated high-risk situation: alcohol cues. The present study investigates the effects of a pharmacotherapy (naltrexone) on a laboratory-based, cue-elicited urge to drink among abstinent alcoholics in treatment.


Alcohol-dependent subjects were randomized to 12 weeks of naltrexone or placebo after completing a partial hospital program. After approximately 1 week on medication, all received cue reactivity assessment.


Significantly fewer patients taking naltrexone reported any urge to drink during alcohol exposure than did those on placebo. Those with any urges reported no decrement in level of the urges. Mean arterial pressure decreased significantly for those on placebo, but not for those on naltrexone, whereas cue-elicited decreases in heart rate were not affected by the medication.


The results have implications for models of relapse and naltrexone's effects. Cue reactivity methodology has utility for investigating hypothesized mediators of therapeutic effects of pharmacotherapies as well as behavioral treatments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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