Background: High impulsivity and attentional bias are common in cocaine-dependent patients and predict poor treatment outcomes. The pharmacological agent modafinil is studied for its cognitive-enhancing capacities and may therefore improve clinical outcomes in crack-cocaine dependent patients. In this study, we investigated first whether pre-treatment impulsivity and attentional bias predict treatment outcome; next whether the drug modafinil given as an add-on treatment to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) improves impulsivity and attentional bias; and last, whether changes in impulsivity and attentional bias are related to improvements in treatment outcome.
Methods: Crack-cocaine dependent outpatients (n = 65) were randomised to 12 weeks CBT plus modafinil (400 mg/day) or only CBT. Self-reported impulsivity was assessed at baseline using the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale. At baseline and Week 12, we assessed inhibitory control as a behavioural measure of impulsivity, in terms of cognitive interference (Stroop task) and response inhibition ('stop-signal task'), and attentional bias with the addiction Stroop task. Clinical outcomes were CBT-retention and crack-cocaine use.
Results: At baseline, self-reported impulsivity predicted better CBT-retention; low self-reported and behavioural impulsivity and attentional bias predicted less crack-cocaine use. Changes in cognitive performance were not modafinil-related, but most likely due to low adherence. Improvements in impulsivity or attentional bias were not associated with CBT-retention nor changes in crack-cocaine use.
Conclusions: Baseline impulsivity and attentional bias predicted clinical outcomes in crack-cocaine dependent patients. There were no firm indications that modafinil reduced impulsivity nor attentional bias in this population. Future studies involving cognitive-enhancing medications should include strategies to optimise adherence, to be better able to evaluate their potential.
Keywords: Adherence; attentional bias; cocaine dependence; cognition; cognitive behavioural therapy; crack cocaine; drug use; impulsivity; modafinil; randomised controlled trial.
© The Author(s) 2016.