Expectancy-Moderated Effects of Cue-Induced Marijuana Craving Among University Students

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Although marijuana (MJ) and its cues can elicit craving in a wide array of users, the process by which this occurs remains poorly understood. MJ outcome-expectancy research suggests that a person’s expectancies regarding MJ craving (i.e., beliefs about whether MJ use leads a person to crave MJ in the future) may influence his or her craving in response to MJ and its cues. This experiment aimed to assess the influence of MJ primes, MJ craving expectancies, and average weekly gram use on self-reported craving in an undergraduate sample (n = 112; 56% male; 46% Caucasian) reporting monthly MJ use. Outcome-expectancy models of craving based on classical conditioning led us to hypothesize that MJ craving should increase in the presence of primes, particularly for heavy weekly users who hold high craving expectancies. Participants who were primed with MJ cues reported significantly higher craving than the control condition. Regression analysis confirmed the 3-way interaction between MJ primes, weekly grams, and expectancies in the prediction of craving. Among heavy weekly users, those with high expectancies trended toward greater prime-induced craving than those with low expectancies. Conversely, among light weekly users, those with high expectancies reported significantly lower prime-induced craving than those with high expectancies. Expectancies toward whether MJ use leads to craving may differentially predict light versus heavy weekly users’ craving in response to MJ primes among college monthly MJ users. Light weekly users may be unlikely to experience cue-induced MJ craving if they hold high craving expectancies.

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