Reactivity of Alcoholics and Nonalcoholics to Drinking Cues

Peter M. Monti, Jody A. Binkoff, David B. Abrams, William R. Zwick, Ted D. Nirenberg, Michael R. Liepman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An interest in reducing relapse among alcoholics has led to a consideration of stimulus control factors in drinking. Research suggests that through classical conditioning alcoholics may develop reactions to cues previously associated with drinking and that these reactions might be an important determinant of relapse. Although this model indicates the potential for cue exposure treatment methods to alter conditioned reactions, data on reactivity to alcohol cues by alcoholics and nonalcoholics are scarce. Two studies are presented that address this issue and provide evidence for the validity of salivation as a measure of cue reactivity. Alcoholics and nonalcoholics were presented with the sight and smell of their preferred brand of alcohol and a control beverage. Self-report, behavioral, and psychophysiological data were collected. Alcoholics salivated more than nonalcoholics to alcohol cues and more to alcohol than to the control beverage. Alcoholics salivated differentially to cues, whereas nonalcoholics did not. Patterns of reactivity were consistent with a conditioning model. Both groups reported greater urges to drink alcohol in the presence of alcohol, but neither group reported more thoughts about alcohol in the presence of alcohol as compared with the control beverage. Implications of salivary reactivity for theory and treatment are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-126
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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