Craving and Physiological Reactivity to Trauma and Alcohol Cues in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Alcohol Dependence


The high comorbidity of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol dependence (AD) has been firmly established. Although laboratory studies have examined self-reported craving in response to trauma and alcohol cues, no studies have reported on alcohol-related physiological responding in response to trauma cues in PTSD-AD individuals. Using a cue reactivity paradigm, this study examined the impact of personalized trauma-image cues and in vivo alcohol cues on alcohol-related responding (e.g., salivation, craving) in individuals with PTSD and AD (n = 40). Participants displayed reactivity to both trauma and alcohol cues when compared to neutral cues, including increased self-reported craving and distress, as well as greater salivation. These findings suggest that through repeated pairings of trauma memories and alcohol consumption, salivation may become classically conditioned to trauma cues. Moreover, the fact that the trauma-alcohol cue combination elicited greater alcohol craving, salivary responding, distress, and arousal than either the trauma-neutral or neutral-alcohol cue combinations suggests that effects of the trauma and alcohol cues were additive in nature. Evidence that AD individuals with PTSD report increased alcohol craving and display greater salivation in response to trauma memories, supplements prior research indicating that PTSD-related negative emotion and trauma-related alcohol craving may play an important role in the maintenance of AD.


Psychological Science

Keywords and Phrases

Adult; Alcoholism; Arousal; Article; Clinical Article; Comorbidity; Distress Syndrome; Effect Size; Female; Human; Imagery; Male; Memory; Posttraumatic Stress Disorder; Salivation; Self Report; Statistical Analysis; Withdrawal Syndrome; Affect; Alcohol Drinking; Alcoholism; Arousal; Behavior; Comorbidity; Cues; Ethanol; Female; Humans; Male; Psychiatric Status Rating Scales; Salivation; Stress Disorders; Post-Traumatic; Stress; Physiological; Wounds and Injuries; Alcohol Abuse; Comorbidity; Cue Reactivity; Emotion; Imagery; Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

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Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 2010 American Psychological Association (APA), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2010