Psychological stress, drug-related cues and cocaine craving

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2000 Oct;152(2):140-8. doi: 10.1007/s002130000499.


Rationale: While several environmental situations may produce cocaine craving, there is little research on whether patterns of drug cue reactivity are similar across different environmental situations.

Objective: This study examined whether two different environmental situations, psychological stress and drug cues, produce similar or varying patterns of cue reactivity in 20 cocaine dependent individuals.

Methods: All subjects participated in a single laboratory session and were exposed to stress, drug cues and neutral-relaxing imagery conditions. Cocaine and alcohol craving, emotion state ratings, subjective anxiety, heart rate and salivary cortisol measures were assessed.

Results: Significant increases in cocaine and alcohol craving were observed with stress and drug cues imagery but not with neutral-relaxing imagery. In addition, stress and drug cues situations produced similar increases in subjective anxiety, heart rate and salivary cortisol levels. Significant increases in negative emotion ratings and decreases in positive emotion ratings were found for stress and drug cues conditions as compared to the neutral condition.

Conclusions: The findings indicate that a similar and comparable pattern of cue reactivity is induced by stress and drug cue manipulations. Furthermore, the comparable increases in subjective anxiety and negative affect observed with stress-induced and drug cue-induced craving provides support for the negative reinforcement model of drug craving and relapse. The negative affectivity co-occurring with the craving state appears to be an important target in the development of new treatments for cocaine dependence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / etiology
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Anxiety / complications
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / etiology*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Cues*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*


  • Hydrocortisone