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Coke addicts prefer money in hand to snowy future
Date:8/11/2011

When a research team asked cocaine addicts to choose, hypothetically, between money now or cocaine of greater value later, "preference was almost exclusively for the money now," said Warren K., Bickel, professor in the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, director of the Advanced Recovery Research Center, and professor of psychology in the College of Science at Virginia Tech. This result is significantly different from previous studies where a subject chooses between some money now or more money later.

Hollywood portrays cocaine addicts as people who will do anything to get their drug and cocaine as the most strongly valued commodity in an addict's life. But research led by Bickel suggests a revision of that view-- cocaine is strongly valued only when it is immediately available. "When it is available later, it is not worth very much," he said.

The finding is good news for developing drug treatment programs based on incentives for delaying drug use, he said.

Research has demonstrated that addicts whether, smokers, drinkers, gamblers, or overeaters do tend to prefer the near-term reward. Such findings have provided insights into understanding addiction and the challenges for treatments that promise long-range benefits.

But most of the past research has been done with a single commodity such as money. "In real life, important choices for those with addiction depend on making decisions across commodities, such as cigarettes now or money later," said Bickel. His research team examined how the type of commodity and timing of a reward impacted decision making by cocaine addicts. They asked addicts to decide between cocaine now vs. more cocaine later; money now vs. more money later; cocaine now vs. money later; and money now vs. cocaine later.

Participants were 47 cocaine addicts, by criteria of the American Psychiatric Association, who were seeking treatment. They averaged in their early 40s, with 12 years of edu
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Contact: Susan Trulove
strulove@vt.edu
540-231-5646
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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