Motivational processes in addiction: the role of craving, salience and attention
background Motivational processes play an important role in addictive behaviours. Craving is mainly an explicit or conscious process that can motivate individuals to continue alcohol, take drugs or smoke cigarettes. Craving also plays a role in relapse; self-reported craving has often been associated with relapse. However, craving cannot explain all addictive behaviours. In addition to craving, implicit cognitive processes play an important part in motivating individuals to become involved in substance use.
aim To describe some of these implicit cognitive processes, namely the role of salience, attention bias, automatic memory associations and action tendencies.
method A description is given of recent research results and the implications of these implicit processes for clinical practice.
results Oversensitive/hypersensitive motivational processes and a lack of control over these processes both play an important role in addiction. This can be expressed by an uncontrollable urge to inject the drug or substance again, in spite of the fact that it is unwise for the person in question to do so. Recent research has shown that there are various very promising methods for dealing with these two problems (oversensitive/hypersensitive motivational processes and a lack of control over these processes), either separately or together. The methods involve behavioural training programmes, medication and neural stimulation.
conclusion The research results are very promising, but more research is needed.