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New analysis may help clarify the role of craving in addiction
Date:7/14/2010

Athens, Ga. Just-published research led by a psychologist at the University of Georgia shows that behavioral economic analysis may lead to an improved understanding of craving for alcohol and other drugs.

This method of studying how craving alters the way a person values a drug is fairly new, but according to the study, it may well help assess cravings more accurately and contribute to identifying more effective ways to defeat addictions.

The research was published Tuesday in the journal Addiction.

The classical perspective on the role of craving in addiction is that over time excessive alcohol or drug use leads to increasingly persistent desires or urges for them. Ways to use craving as a predictor of post-treatment relapses, have, unfortunately, been unclear at best.

"The role of craving in the motivation of drug users has been controversial because of ambiguous findings and challenges in defining craving itself," said James MacKillop, lead author on the research and a member of the department of psychology in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "The field of behavioral economics is a hybrid of psychology and microeconomics and has the potential to address a number of the inherent limitations we have seen in studying craving. One of the reasons for the ambiguity may be related to measurement problems. Behavioral economics translates subjective desires into more objective terms, like number of drinks consumed and dollars spent, and shows real promise in finding better ways to study and understand craving."

Other authors of the paper are Sean O'Hagen and Stephen Lisman of the State University of New York at Binghamton, James Murphy of the University of Memphis, Lara Ray of UCLA and Jennifer Tidey, John McGeary and Peter Monti of the Providence Veterans Medical Center and Brown University.

The study involved 92 university students from the Northeast who were "heavy drinkers," meaning at lea
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Contact: James McKillop
jmackil@uga.edu
706-542-3033
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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