Increased Depression and Anxiety Symptoms are Associated with More Breakdowns in Cognitive Control to Cocaine Cues in Veterans with Cocaine Use Disorder

J Dual Diagn. Oct-Dec 2017;13(4):298-304. doi: 10.1080/15504263.2017.1360535. Epub 2017 Nov 9.


Objective: Cue-elicited craving is a clinically important aspect of cocaine addiction directly linked to cognitive control breakdowns and relapse to cocaine-taking behavior. However, whether craving drives breakdowns in cognitive control toward cocaine cues in veterans, who experience significantly more co-occurring mood disorders, is unknown. The present study tests whether veterans have breakdowns in cognitive control because of cue-elicited craving or current anxiety or depression symptoms.

Methods: Twenty-four veterans with cocaine use disorder were cue-exposed, then tested on an antisaccade task in which participants were asked to control their eye movements toward cocaine or neutral cues by looking away from the cue. The relationship among cognitive control breakdowns (as measured by eye errors), cue-induced craving (changes in self-reported craving following cocaine cue exposure), and mood measures (depression and anxiety) was investigated.

Results: Veterans made significantly more errors toward cocaine cues than neutral cues. Depression and anxiety scores, but not cue-elicited craving, were significantly associated with increased subsequent errors toward cocaine cues for veterans.

Conclusions: Increased depression and anxiety are specifically related to more cognitive control breakdowns toward cocaine cues in veterans. Depression and anxiety must be considered further in the etiology and treatment of cocaine use disorder in veterans. Furthermore, treating depression and anxiety as well, rather than solely alleviating craving levels, may prove a more effective combined treatment option in veterans with cocaine use disorder.

Keywords: Cocaine; addiction; antisaccades; cognitive control; mood disorders; veterans.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Anxiety Disorders / complications*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Craving
  • Cues
  • Depressive Disorder / complications*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Diagnosis, Dual (Psychiatry)
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Executive Function
  • Eye Movement Measurements
  • Eye Movements
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Psychological Tests
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Veterans / psychology


  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Cocaine