Daily associations between alcohol and sweets craving and consumption in early AUD recovery: Results from an ecological momentary assessment study

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2022 Jan:132:108614. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2021.108614. Epub 2021 Aug 28.


Introduction: Alcohol cravings can predict relapse in persons with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Consuming sweets is a commonly recommend strategy to quell alcohol cravings in early recovery from AUD, yet research is equivocal on whether consuming sweets mitigates alcohol cravings or relapse risk. The current study used ecological momentary assessment (EMA) data to examine real-time alcohol cravings, sweet cravings, and consumption of sweets among adults in early recovery from AUD.

Methods: We used EMA methods to follow 25 adults (n = 14 women, 56%; M. age 40, S.D. 10.68) recently discharged from a partial hospitalization program for AUD for 21 days. Prompts were sent to the participants for completion four times per day via a mobile app. EMA data were disaggregated prior to analysis to examine between- and within-person effects. A series of three mixed linear models tested: 1) the contemporaneous effect of sweet and alcohol cravings, 2) alcohol cravings predicting sweet consumption later in the day, and 3) sweet consumption predicting alcohol craving later in the day.

Results: The results of the first model revealed alcohol cravings were associated with sweet cravings early in recovery. In the second model, no effect occurred between alcohol cravings earlier in the day predicting sweet consumption later in the day. The third model suggested consuming sweets earlier in the day predicted higher alcohol cravings later in the day.

Discussion: Sweet craving and consumption are associated with alcohol cravings among adults in early recovery from AUD. These findings suggest consuming sweets may increase alcohol cravings. If future studies can replicate this result, consuming sweets in early recovery may emerge as a potential risk for relapse in this population.

Keywords: Alcohol use disorder; EMA; Relapse; Sugar consumption.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Alcoholism*
  • Craving*
  • Ecological Momentary Assessment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Recurrence