OBJECTIVE: Craving for methamphetamine is commonly reported by heavy users of the drug and may increase the risk of relapse in newly abstinent individuals. Exposure to methamphetamine-associated cues in the laboratory can elicit measureable craving and autonomic reactivity in some individuals with methamphetamine dependence. In this study, clinical and demographic correlates of methamphetamine craving and the optimal conditions for its measurement in the laboratory are explored. METHODS: Subjective (craving) and physiologic (heart rate and skin conductance) reactivity to presentation of methamphetamine-associated photo, video, and paraphernalia cues were evaluated in 43 subjects with methamphetamine dependence. Association of cue reactivity with demographic and clinical characteristics including duration, frequency, amount, and recency of methamphetamine use were assessed. RESULTS: Craving was reported by fewer than half of subjects at baseline and by approximately 70% of subjects after methamphetamine cue exposure. Relative to baseline, subjective craving was increased by all three cue modalities to a similar extent. In general, physiological cue reactivity correlated poorly with cue-induced craving. Craving at baseline was strongly predictive of cue-induced craving. Differences in cue-induced craving were not associated with age, sex, education, employment, treatment status, or number of days using methamphetamine in the 60 days prior to study entry. In contrast, the degree of baseline craving was strongly associated with employment status and the number of days using methamphetamine in the past 60 days. CONCLUSIONS: Cue-induced craving for methamphetamine may be reliably measured in methamphetamine-dependent individuals in the laboratory. Further studies employing the cue reactivity paradigm in methamphetamine dependence are warranted.
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