Boundary Conditions of Methamphetamine Craving

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Abstract

Methamphetamine use has increased significantly and become a global health concern. Craving is known to predict methamphetamine use and relapse following abstinence. Some have suggested that cravings are automatic, generalized, and uncontrollable, but experimental work addressing these claims is lacking. In 2 exploratory studies, we tested the boundary conditions of methamphetamine craving by asking: (a) is craving specific to users’ preferred route of administration?, and (b) can craving be regulated by cognitive strategies? Two groups of methamphetamine users were recruited. In Study 1, participants were grouped by their preferred route of administration (intranasal vs. smoking), and rated their craving in response to photographs and movies depicting methamphetamine use (via the intranasal vs. smoking route). In Study 2, methamphetamine smokers implemented cognitive regulation strategies while viewing photographs depicting methamphetamine smoking. Strategies involved either focusing on the positive aspects of smoking methamphetamine or the negative consequences of doing so—the latter strategy based on treatment protocols for addiction. In Study 1, we found a significant interaction between group and route of administration, such that participants who preferred to smoke methamphetamine reported significantly stronger craving for smoking stimuli, whereas those who preferred the intranasal route reported stronger craving for intranasal stimuli. In Study 2, participants reported significantly lower craving when focusing on the negative consequences associated with methamphetamine use. Taken together, these findings suggest that strength of craving for methamphetamine is moderated by users’ route of administration and can be reduced by cognitive strategies. This has important theoretical, methodological, and clinical implications.

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