Background. This study examined whether alcohol abuse patients are characterized either by enhanced schematic processing of alcohol related cues or by an attentional bias towards the processing of alcohol cues.
Method. Abstinent alcohol abusers (N=25) and non-clinical control participants (N=24) performed a dual task paradigm in which they had to make an odd/even decision to a centrally presented number while performing a peripherally presented lexical decision task. Stimuli on the lexical decision task comprised alcohol words, neutral words and non-words. In addition, participants completed an incidental recall task for the words presented in the lexical decision task.
Results. It was found that, in the presence of alcohol related words, the performance of patients on the odd/even decision task was poorer than in the presence of other stimului. In addition, patients displayed slower lexical decision times for alcohol related words. Both groups displayed better recall for alcohol words than for other stimuli.
Conclusions. These results are interpreted as supporting neither model of drug cravings. Rather, it is proposed that, in the presence of alcohol stimuli, alcohol abuse patients display a breakdown in the ability to focus attention.
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