A cognitive model of drug urges and drug-use behavior: role of automatic and nonautomatic processes

Psychol Rev. 1990 Apr;97(2):147-68. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.97.2.147.


Contemporary urge models assume that urges are necessary but not sufficient for the production of drug use in ongoing addicts, are responsible for the initiation of relapse in abstinent addicts, and can be indexed across 3 classes of behavior: verbal report, overt behavior, and somatovisceral response. A review of available data does not provide strong support for these assumptions. An alternative cognitive model of drug use and drug urges is proposed that hypothesizes that drug use in the addict is controlled by automatized action schemata. Urges are conceptualized as responses supported by nonautomatic cognitive processes activated in parallel with drug-use action schemata either in support of the schema or in support of attempts to block the execution of the schema. The implications of this model for the assessment of urge responding and drug-use behavior are presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Arousal
  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Smoking
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*