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Monday, January 7, 2013

Positive Affect and Stress Reactivity in Alcohol-Dependent Outpatients

Reactivity to stress is a common feature of alcohol dependence and is associated with poorer treatment outcome among alcohol-dependent patients. Despite the importance of stress reactivity in alcohol dependence, little is known about markers of resilience to stress in this population. The current study examined whether positive affect buffered the effect of stress on negative affect and alcohol craving in an alcohol-dependent sample. 

Outpatients (N = 1,375) enrolled in a large, randomized controlled trial for alcohol dependence (the Combined Pharmacotherapies and Behavioral Interventions for Alcohol Dependence [COMBINE] Study) completed measures of stress, positive affect, negative affect, and alcohol craving. In this secondary analysis, we hypothesized that positive affect would moderate the association between stress and negative affect and that positive affect would be negatively associated with craving. 

Results supported these hypotheses, such that patients with higher levels of positive affect exhibited a weaker relationship between stress and negative affect relative to those with low positive affect. Positive affect was negatively associated with craving but did not moderate the association between stress and craving. 

These results replicate studies suggesting a protective effect of positive affect on stress reactivity and extend this effect to an alcohol-dependent sample. If positive affect can aid in resilience to stress, the utilization of interventions that enhance positive affect may be of particular utility for alcohol-dependent patients. Future experimental studies testing the causality of this association as well as studies examining the effect of interventions to enhance positive affect are needed.

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