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Alcohol and Alcoholism

Year: 2009  |  Volume: 44  |  Issue: 5  |  Page No.: 458 - 463

Avoidance of Alcohol-Related Stimuli Increases During the Early Stage of Abstinence in Alcohol-Dependent Patients

S Vollstadt Klein, S Loeber, C von der Goltz, K Mann and F. Kiefer

Abstract

Aims: The aim of this study was to analyse initial orienting processes as well as maintenance of attention towards alcohol cues in recently detoxified alcoholics and light social drinkers. Furthermore, we investigated the influence of pre-treatment alcohol consumption and abstinence duration onto alcohol-related attentional bias. Methods: We used an alcohol-visual-dot-probe-task with two different stimulus onset asynchronies (SOA) to examine processes of initial orienting and maintenance of attention separately (50 and 500 ms SOA). Results: With short SOA, we found a positive attentional bias towards alcohol cues in alcohol-dependent patients and light social drinkers that was positively associated with pre-treatment alcohol consumption in alcoholics. Using a longer SOA, a negative attentional bias was found in light social drinkers and in patients abstinent for more than 2 weeks indicating alcohol stimuli avoidance. In patients, we found a negative correlation between attentional bias and duration of abstinence. Conclusions: After initial visual orienting towards alcohol-related stimuli, light social drinkers as well as longer abstinent alcohol-dependent patients disengage their attention. In patients, this disengagement increased during the first 3 weeks after detoxification indicating assimilation to the attentional bias pattern of light social drinkers.

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