Withdrawal: Expanding a Key Addiction Construct

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Abstract

Withdrawal is an essential component of classical addiction theory; it is a vital manifestation of dependence and motivates relapse. However, the traditional conceptualization of withdrawal as a cohesive collection of symptoms that emerge during drug deprivation and decline with either the passage of time or reinstatement of drug use, may be inadequate to explain scientific findings or fit with modern theories of addiction. This article expands the current understanding of tobacco withdrawal by examining: (1) withdrawal variability; (2) underlying causes of withdrawal variability, including biological and person factors, environmental influences, and the influence of highly routinized behavioral patterns; (3) new withdrawal symptoms that allow for enhanced characterization of the withdrawal experience; and (4) withdrawal-related cognitive processes. These topics provide guidance regarding the optimal assessment of withdrawal and illustrate the potential impact modern withdrawal conceptualization and assessment could have on identifying treatment targets.

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