Craving and negative affect; an Experience Sampling Method study

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Dom G 1,2, Brion N1, Morrens M 1,3
1 Collaborative Antwerp Psychiatric Research Institute, Antwerp University, Antwerp, Belgium
2. Psychiatric center Alexian Brothers, Boechout, Belgium.
3. Psychiatric Center Norbertushuis, Duffel, Belgium
Craving is a hallmark symptom of alcohol dependence and is suggested to be an important factor contributing to relapse and continuation of the disorder. However, craving is a multifaceted construct and many factors seem to mediate its occurrence and intensity. Among those, both impulsivity and negative emotionality have been reported, independently, to mediate the subjective experience of craving. However, impulsivity and negative emotionality might be interdependent phenomena and not much is known about the effect of their interaction on craving. Experience Sampling Method (ESM) is a novel and ecological valid methodology of collecting data about one’s subjective experiences. Thirty abstinent alcohol dependent patients participated in this study. Craving, positive and negative affect were measured with ESM during one week. Impulsivity was measured using self-report (BIS-11) and behavioral tasks (Stop Signal Task, SST, and Delay Discounting Task, DDT). Results showed a main effect of negative affect on craving. Impulsivity (DDT) mediated this effect, but had no main effect on craving itself. It can be concluded that negative affect is an important factor inducing a subsequent increase in craving. Specifically Impulsive patients seem to respond with an increase in craving in response to a negative affect episode.