In Search of Anticipatory Cigarette Cravings: The Impact of Perceived Smoking Opportunity and Motivation to Seek Treatment

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Abstract

Craving has long been considered central to addiction, but it remains unclear just how it contributes to drug use or relapse. Improved understanding of its role in addiction requires a more fine-grained examination of craving, including the context in which it occurs. This study used a novel set of smoking-related and unrelated stimuli to investigate the responses of 227 nicotine-deprived smokers under conditions that manipulated perceived smoking opportunity and motivation to quit smoking. Specifically, we contrasted features of preconsumptive states when active smokers anticipate smoking soon to states when smokers do not have this expectation. Results indicated that under certain conditions (smokers not interested in quitting who expected to be able to smoke soon), exposure to smoking cues becomes attractive. Specifically, these smokers found smoking-related images to be more pleasant than did smokers who were either motivated to quit smoking within the next month or who were informed that they would not be permitted to smoke during the experiment. More broadly, the study raises the possibility that the loss of routinely experienced pleasant cravings upon quitting smoking may yield challenges to staying quit and requires greater clinical attention.

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