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Behavioral Economics May Help Explain Alcohol Cravings

Posted in Research

Cravings and addiction are an interesting study as individuals vary in such regards as much as they do in body size, hair and eye color and other preferences. According to a recent Science Daily blog, behavioral economic analysis could provide for a more clear understanding of cravings individuals may experience for alcohol and other drugs.

While this approach is considered to be new, researchers believe it can help assess cravings more accurately. As a result, this approach can help to contribute to more effective ways to overcome addictions.

Lead author James MacKillop noted that while it is often believed that excessive alcohol or drug use leads to increased cravings, this approach is shrouded in controversy simply because findings in this area have been ambiguous, presenting challenges to defining cravings.

One of the reasons behavioral economics is believed to work is its approach to translating subjective desires into terms that are more objective. In examining things like the number of drinks consumed or the total dollars spent, the study and understanding of cravings is more defined.

In an examination of 92 university students considered to be heavy drinkers who were given a class of water and a glass of their favorite beer, participants were asked to rate their craving and how much they would drink based on an increasing price scale.

Researchers found that the presence of the beer not only increased cravings, it also increased the perceived value of the drink in terms of behavioral economics. Participants said they would spend more total money on alcohol and would drink ongoing even at higher prices.