A consistent attentional bias for drug-related material in active cocaine users across word and picture versions of the emotional Stroop task

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2006 Feb 28;81(3):251-7. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2005.07.002. Epub 2005 Aug 10.


Evidence from a number of drug-abuse populations suggests that an attentional bias for drug-related stimuli can be identified in chronic users. Such an effect has yet to be reliably demonstrated in cocaine users, despite mounting evidence of the salience and reinforcing properties of cocaine-related cues. The aim of the current study was to administer word (modeled on the versions shown to successfully identify attentional biases in alcohol abusers) and picture versions of the emotional Stroop tasks to gauge the reliability of cocaine-specific attentional biases across stimuli domains. A comparison of active cocaine users (n = 23), and their age and education matched controls revealed a significant bias for cocaine-related pictures and words in users. This attentional bias could not be attributed to confounding factors such as slowed response speed of cocaine users, cocaine-related material sharing category ownership, or that the cocaine-related material used in the current study was generally arousing for all participants. A comparison of the different classes of stimuli indicated that cocaine users had a very similar level of difficulty controlling their attention towards both cocaine-related material and incongruent-colour word stimuli, the latter being the traditional measure of attentional control from the Stroop task. These results provide corroborating evidence for cognitive biases being a hallmark of substance dependence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation*
  • Psychological Tests*
  • Vocabulary*