Decode Addiction

A hallmark of addiction is the tendency to choose immediate gratification over longer term, healthier benefits. Our research focuses on understanding the decision-making of addicts as a means to discover targets for new therapies.

Cocaine addicts often exhibit risky sexual behavior that has led to elevated rates of HIV in this population. In this study, we are using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare the neurobiological underpinnings of the decision-making processes of chronic cocaine users, recreational cocaine users, and community control participants while they are making choices involving money, sexual acts, and cocaine.

Project 2 will assess abuse liability of snus relative to medicinal nicotine and conventional cigarettes using procedures that examine demand, choice, and substitution in laboratory and outpatient settings. We will refine methods of abuse liability assessment of individual tobacco products, produce a validated questionnaire for use in large-scale clinical trials, and determine the potential population harm associated with concurrent availability of these products to the public in order to decrease morbidity, mortality, and societal costs associated with tobacco use.

Despite smoking being the single largest preventable cause of mortality and morbidity in the U.S., even the most efficacious smoking cessation treatments fail to produce abstinence among the majority of smokers. As self-control failure is a major source of poor treatment outcomes among smokers, a greater understanding of self-control failure and its repair could lead to new and more refined approaches to smoking cessation treatment. We will attempt to improve treatment outcomes in three inter-related Aims: (1) a basic research study to characterize, in detail, self-control failure among smokers and its relationship to measures that suggest smokers are more sensitive to the immediate environment (stimulus bound), (2) a proof-of-concept study to characterize a novel Self-Control Improvement Intervention (SCII) on measures indicative of being stimulus bound among smokers, and (3) a pilot/feasibility study to address the role of our SCII in a multi-modal smoking cessation treatment regimen.