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

st 21 drinks a week for males and 14 for females. The subjects were not given anything to drink but underwent a laboratory assessment after being poured a glass of spring water and after being poured a glass of their favorite beer.

In both contexts, subjects related their subjective craving for alcohol and estimated how much they would drink based on an increasing price scale. The presence of their favorite beer significantly increased craving for alcohol but also significantly increased the relative value of alcohol in behavioral economic terms. Subjects reported they would drink significantly more alcohol at low prices, they would spend more money in total on alcohol and they would continue to drink at higher prices.

While this may seem intuitive and a matter of common sense, behavioral economic methods have not been extensively applied to understand craving in the past. The new information may be useful, for example, in understanding the paradoxical behavior exhibited by addicts who commonly vacillate from wanting to quit drinking, smoking or using other drugs to reversing course and continuing to use.

More broadly, behavioral economics may have diverse applications to alcohol and drug misuse, from improving measurement in research to informing policymakers with regard to tax policy.

"Assessing craving using behavioral economic variables gives us a different and more complete understanding of how craving and decision-making interact," said MacKillop. "We believe this work is both interesting and exciting and has the capacity to help us understand craving much better than we have before."

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2001, heavy drinking was reported by 5.7 percent of the population aged 12 or older, or 12.9 million people. Among youths aged 12 to 17, an estimated 17.3 percent used alcohol in the month prior to the survey interview. Of all youths, 10.6 percent were binge drinkers,
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Contact: James McKillop
jmackil@uga.edu
706-542-3033
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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