Reactivity to alcohol-related cues in heavy and light drinkers

J. D. Greeley*, W. Swift, J. Prescott, N. Heather

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    56 Citations (Scopus)


    Physiological responses and self-reported desire for alcohol were compared in heavy (n = 21) and light (n = 29) drinkers under each of two cue conditions. The cues were presented in a counterbalanced order and consisted of the sight, smell and taste of the subject's preferred alcoholic beverage (alcohol cue) and of a nonalcoholic lemon-flavored drink (neutral cue). Heavy drinkers showed a significant linear increase in reported desire for alcohol over time in the presence of the alcohol cue. This persistent increase in desire for alcohol seen in heavy drinkers contrasted with the initial increase shown by light drinkers which dissipated over time. Neither group showed any significant change in desire for alcohol when presented with the neutral cue. Heavy drinkers showed lower levels of skin conductance than light drinkers and all subjects showed changes in heart rate during exposure to both cues. Heart rate was affected differentially in the two groups of drinkers but only when the alcohol cue was presented first. Neither blood pressure nor stress and arousal levels changed significantly from pre- to post-cue presentations. The findings of this study have implications for understanding the nature and time course of cue-elicited desire for alcohol and its potential role in the development and treatment of alcohol dependence.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)359-368
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Studies on Alcohol
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1993


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