Aims: Previous studies have shown that abstinent heroin addicts exhibit an attentional bias to heroin-related stimuli. It has been suggested that attentional bias may represent a vulnerability to relapse into drug use. In the present study, the predictive value of pre-treatment attentional bias on relapse was examined in a population of abstinent heroin addicts. Further, the effect of cue exposure therapy (CET) on attentional bias was studied. Design: Participants were assigned randomly to receive nine sessions of CET or placebo psychotherapy. Setting: An in-patient drug abuse treatment setting. Participants: Abstinent heroin-dependent patients. Measurements: Participants completed the emotional Stroop task both before and after completing treatment. Findings: Pre-treatment attentional bias predicted relapse at 3-month follow-up, even when controlling for self-reported cravings at the test session. Further, attentional bias was reduced in both groups after therapy, independent of treatment condition. Conclusions: Attentional bias may tap an important component of drug dependence as it is a predictor of opiate relapse. However, CET does not specifically reduce attentional bias.

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Keywords Addiction, Attentional bias, Heroin, Relapse, Stroop-task
Persistent URL,
Journal Addiction
Marissen, M.A.E, Franken, I.H.A, Waters, A.J, Blanken, P, van den Brink, W, & Hendriks, V. (2006). Attentional bias predicts heroin relapse following treatment. Addiction, 101(9), 1306–1312. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01498.x