Incubation of alcohol craving during abstinence in patients with alcohol dependence

Addict Biol. 2015 May;20(3):513-22. doi: 10.1111/adb.12140. Epub 2014 Apr 2.


Time-dependent increases in cue-induced nicotine and methamphetamine craving during abstinence were recently reported in human drug-dependent individuals. In the present study, we sought to determine whether this 'incubation of craving' phenomenon also occurs in alcoholics. Four groups of 80 inpatient adult male alcoholics were assessed in a single session (between-group design) for cue-induced alcohol craving at 7, 14, 30 and 60 days of abstinence. Another group that included 19 patients was repeatedly tested for cue-induced alcohol craving at the same abstinence days as above. Other psychological and physiological measures were assessed at the four abstinence timepoints. Cue-induced alcohol craving measured with visual analogue scales was the highest at 60 days of abstinence both between and within groups. However, heart rate, blood pressure and skin conductance responses did not differ between abstinent groups. These results provide evidence of the incubation of alcohol craving in humans, extending previous reports with smokers and methamphetamine addicts.

Keywords: Alcohol dependence; craving; incubation; physiological reaction.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Abstinence / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Craving*
  • Cues
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology
  • Young Adult