Addiction motivation reformulated: an affective processing model of negative reinforcement

Psychol Rev. 2004 Jan;111(1):33-51. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.111.1.33.


This article offers a reformulation of the negative reinforcement model of drug addiction and proposes that the escape and avoidance of negative affect is the prepotent motive for addictive drug use. The authors posit that negative affect is the motivational core of the withdrawal syndrome and argue that, through repeated cycles of drug use and withdrawal, addicted organisms learn to detect interoceptive cues of negative affect preconsciously. Thus, the motivational basis of much drug use is opaque and tends not to reflect cognitive control. When either stressors or abstinence causes negative affect to grow and enter consciousness, increasing negative affect biases information processing in ways that promote renewed drug administration. After explicating their model, the authors address previous critiques of negative reinforcement models in light of their reformulation and review predictions generated by their model.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Association Learning
  • Avoidance Learning
  • Awareness
  • Escape Reaction
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motivation*
  • Recurrence
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Unconscious, Psychology