Avoidance of alcohol-related stimuli in alcohol-dependent inpatients

BACKGROUND: Previous research has shown an attentional bias toward drug-related stimuli in heavy social drinkers.

Attentional orientation to drug-related cues may lead to increased craving and preoccupation with the drug and impaired ability to focus attention on nondrug-related activities, resulting in renewed drug taking or relapse from drug abstinence.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to investigate whether alcohol-dependent inpatients would differ in their selective attention toward alcohol-related stimuli in comparison with a group of social drinking controls.

METHOD: Thirty-five alcohol-dependent inpatients were compared with a group of 39 social drinking controls matched for age, sex, and verbal IQ.

Attentional bias was assessed using alcohol-related pictures in a dot probe detection task.

Questionnaires were used to examine outcome expectancies after alcohol consumption, anxiety, mood, and craving.

RESULTS: The alcoholic inpatients showed a bias away from the alcohol-related stimuli, scored higher on alcohol outcome expectancies, and on anxiety measures (both state and trait).

They also presented with more negative mood compared with the control group.

Craving was higher in the alcoholic group for the factor “loss of control over drinking.”

CONCLUSIONS: Alcoholic inpatients undergoing treatment based on the 12-step treatment of Alcoholics Anonymous (Minnesota model), which includes counseling, and intensive group, individual, and family psychotherapy, show an avoidance for drug-related stimuli and a perception of loss of control over drinking.

We suggest that their increased perception of loss of control over drinking produces the avoidance from the drug-related stimuli.

Research report; Townshend JM, Duka T. Avoidance of alcohol-related stimuli in alcohol-dependent inpatients. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2007 Aug;31(8):1349-57.
The Annotated AA Handbook : A Companion to the Big Book
by Frank Dwyer

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