Lawn, W., Freeman, T. P, Hindocha, C., Mokrysz, C., Das, R. K, Morgan, C. J & Curran, HV. (2015). The effects of nicotine dependence and acute abstinence on the processing of drug and non-drug rewards. Psychopharmacology,232(14), 2503-2517. Germany: Springer Verlag. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-015-3883-4
Rationale: Drug addiction may be characterised by a hypersensitivity to drug rewards and a hyposensitivity to non-drug rewards. This imbalance may become further polarised during acute abstinence. Objectives: (i) Examine the differences between dependent and occasional smokers in choices for, motivation for and self-reported wanting and liking of cigarette and non-drug rewards. (ii) Examine the effects of 12-h nicotine abstinence on these metrics. Methods: Dependent (n = 20) and occasional, non-dependent smokers (n = 20) were tested after ad libitum smoking and ≥12-h of nicotine abstinence. A novel task was developed (Drug, Reward and Motivation–Choice (DReaM-Choice)) in which different rewards (cigarettes, music and chocolate) could be won. In each trial, participants chose between two rewards and then could earn the chosen reward via repeated button-pressing. Participants subsequently ‘consumed’ and rated subjective liking of the rewards they had won. Results: Compared with occasional smokers, dependent smokers made more choices for (p < 0.001), pressed more for (p = 0.046) and reported more wanting (p = 0.007) and liking (p < 0.001) of cigarettes, and also made fewer choices for chocolate (p = 0.005). There were no differences between the groups on button-pressing for chocolate or music. However, the balance between drug and non-drug reward processing was different between the groups across all metrics. Twelve-hour nicotine abstinence led to more cigarette choices (p < 0.001) and fewer music choices (p = 0.042) in both groups. Conclusions: Nicotine dependence was associated with a hypersensitivity to cigarette rewards, but we found little evidence indicating a hyposensitivity to non-drug rewards. Our findings question the moderating influence of dependence on how acute nicotine abstinence affects reward processing.
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