Cannabis intoxication inhibits avoidance action tendencies: a field study in the Amsterdam coffee shops

Janna Cousijn, Robin W M Snoek, Reinout W Wiers
Psychopharmacology 2013, 229 (1): 167-76

RATIONALE: Experimental laboratory studies suggest that the approach bias (relatively fast approach responses) toward substance-related materials plays an important role in problematic substance use. How this bias is moderated by intention to use versus recent use remains unknown. Moreover, the relationship between approach bias and other motivational processes (satiation and craving) and executive functioning remains unclear.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to investigate the cannabis approach bias before and after cannabis use in real-life setting (Amsterdam coffee shops) and to assess the relationship between approach bias, craving, satiation, cannabis use, and response inhibition.

METHODS: Cannabis, tobacco, and neutral approach and avoidance action tendencies were measured with the Approach Avoidance Task and compared between 42 heavy cannabis users with the intention to use and 45 heavy cannabis users shortly after cannabis use. The classical Stroop was used to measure response inhibition. Multiple regression analyses were conducted to investigate relationships between approach bias, satiation, craving, cannabis use, and response inhibition.

RESULTS: In contrast to the hypotheses, heavy cannabis users with the intention to use did not show a cannabis approach bias, whereas intoxicated cannabis users did show an approach bias regardless of image category. This could be attributed to a general slowing of avoidance action tendencies. Moreover, craving was negatively associated with the approach bias, and no relationships were observed between the cannabis approach bias, satiation, prior cannabis use, and response inhibition.

CONCLUSION: Cannabis intoxication in a real-life setting inhibited general avoidance. Expression of the cannabis approach bias appeared not to be modulated by satiation or response inhibition.

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