Does Alexithymia Explain Variation in Cue-Elicited Craving Reported by Methamphetamine-Dependent Individuals?

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Abstract

Drug craving is an important motivational phenomenon among addicted individuals, and successful management of craving is essential to both the initiation and maintenance of abstinence. Although craving in response to drug cues is common in drug-dependent individuals, it is not universal. At the present time, it is not known why approximately 20–30% of all addicted persons fail to report appreciable craving in laboratory-based cue reactivity studies. This study examined the possibility that alexithymia, a personality attribute characterized by a difficulty identifying and describing emotions, may contribute to the impoverished cue-elicited craving experienced by some addicts. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that alexithymia, as measured by the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS), would be inversely related to the magnitude of cue-elicited craving obtained in a cue reactivity protocol. Forty methamphetamine-dependent individuals completed the TAS and provided craving ratings for methamphetamine after presentation of methamphetamine-associated cues. Thirteen participants (32%) reported no methamphetamine cue-elicited craving. Contrary to expectation, TAS factor 1 (a measure of difficulty identifying feelings) scores were positively associated with cue-elicited craving. Thus, the results suggest that increasing difficulty-identifying feelings may be associated with higher cue-elicited craving. Clinical implications for this finding are discussed. (Am J Addict 2012:21:130–135)

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