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Title: An investigation of mechanisms underpinning substance dependence and novel interventions
Author: Hardy, Lorna
ISNI:       0000 0004 7653 6733
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2018
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A number of theories have attempted to explicate mechanisms underpinning the transition from recreational drug use to substance dependence. A highly reliable correlate of dependence is the value ascribed to the drug. However, supernormal drug valuation may be insufficient to fully account for a subgroup of dependent individuals for whom the course of dependence is chronic and relapsing and who persist in drug use in the face of devastating costs. Three candidate secondary mechanisms for dependence are considered in this thesis: cue reactivity, cost discounting, and sensitivity to negative affect. Neither cue reactivity nor cost discounting were found to be significantly associated with severity of alcohol dependence in samples of young adult drinkers. By contrast, induced negative affect was found to be reliably associated with augmented alcohol motivation, and sensitivity to this effect was related to symptoms of depression and self-reported drinking to cope with negative affect: both risk factors for the development of dependence. These findings delineate a particular subset of dependent individuals for whom negative affect may represent a substantial trigger to continued drug use. There are a lack of brief interventions to abolish or limit negative affect driven drug motivation. This thesis trialled three potential interventions. A natural walk intervention in hazardous drinkers showed no evidence of limiting this effect in two experiments. Brief instruction in acceptance-based coping showed no evidence of limiting annoyance in response to an aversive noise induction procedure in an alcohol dependent population, and was therefore also eliminated as a potential intervention. However, engagement with pleasant environmental images, as a proxy for environmental enrichment, significantly reduced negative affect driven alcohol choice in student drinkers who reported a desire to visit the locations shown (high liking), compared to low-liking individuals and controls. This provides preliminary evidence for the efficacy of environmental enrichment type interventions, justifying further trials. In treatment of dependence more generally, interventions to increase access to healthy, non-drug sources of positive reinforcement may prove effective.
Supervisor: Hogarth, Lee ; Morgan, Celia Sponsor: ESRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Addiction ; Alcohol ; Substance dependence ; Depression ; Drinking to cope ; Cue reactivity ; Cost discounting