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Monday, May 6, 2013

Should we train alcohol-dependent patients to avoid alcohol? Commentary on Spruyt et al “On the predictive validity of automatically activated approach/avoidance tendencies in abstaining alcohol-dependent patients”

Spruyt et al. [1] report an interesting study in which they compared an alcohol approach-bias, as measured with the Relevant-feature Stimulus Response Compatibility task (R-SRC) in 40 abstaining alcohol-dependent patients and 40 non-dependent controls. While controls had an approach-bias for alcohol as compared to matched control-pictures like water, alcohol-dependent patients showed a relative avoidance bias for alcohol. In the patients group, an avoidance-bias was associated with an increased risk for relapse 3 months later. The authors discuss the relationship of these findings with our training-results, in which alcohol-dependent patients trained to avoid alcohol did better at a one-year follow-up: “Although initial findings suggest that alcohol-avoidance training could help reduce relapse rates in abstaining-alcohol dependent patients [2], it is still unclear whether changes in automatically approach/avoidance tendencies are directly responsible for the observed changes in treatment outcome. Our findings suggest that actually inducing an avoidance orientation towards alcohol might have harmful effects, at least in a clinical population.”    > > > >   Read More