Can't find something? Search Here.

Attentional Bias in Alcoholism

Posted in Relapse Prevention

Alcohol addiction can be very difficult to overcome. Many individuals who struggle with an alcohol use disorder enter treatment, only to relapse after completing the program. There is often a cycle of recovery and relapse that plagues the addict and makes it difficult for them to improve their quality of life in a sustainable way.

The reasons for the relapse are not fully understood, but many who struggle with relapse say that they fully intend to abstain from alcohol. Instead, they feel compelled to drink and find that they are unable to resist the behavior patterns that lead back to alcohol addiction.

Those who are addicted to alcohol use the word compulsion when describing the cravings that are connected with the addiction. The compulsion has been shown in previous studies to be connected with impulsivity and cognition.

A new study by Christina Fridrici and colleagues at the Research Department of the Clinic of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, housed in the Hospital Bielefeld in Germany, looked at the role of attentional bias related to alcohol cues. The alcohol cues are believed to increase alcohol cravings.

The study involved 39 individuals who were identified as alcohol-dependent, in addition to 33 controls who had no history of alcohol use disorders. The participants were given a group of cues that included non-alcohol related words as well as alcohol-related words, and individual words that were related to the participants’ personal history with the consumption of alcohol.

The reactions and cravings of the individuals were assessed as they viewed the cues. Contrary to the results of some previous studies, the participants who were identified as alcohol-dependent were not found to show an attentional bias when shown alcohol-related words.

It should be noted, though, that Fridrici found that the alcohol-dependent participants took more time to respond when shown alcohol-related words when compared with those who were not alcohol-dependent.

The difference in response was not noted in the non- alcohol related cues. The study authors believe that the difference observed was due to a deficit in inhibition instead of showing an increase in bias for those who were alcohol dependent.

The study also showed that the controls were more likely to show a higher rate of response disruption when responding to alcohol-related cues when compared to the response exhibited by alcohol-dependent participants. The authors speculate that this difference may be due to a habitual response among alcohol-dependent individuals, while non-alcohol dependent individuals are more susceptible to disruption.

The findings from the study create a springboard for further research in this area. Fridrici says that the differences related to craving and abstinence should be considered when developing not only models of drinking maintenance but in research and therapy as well.

The findings are published in a recent issue of the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.