What is it about?

Results show that adolescent smokers experience a disconnect between substance “liking” and substance “wanting.” It may be that some adolescent smokers experience feelings of a “thwarted reward” following a smoking event; that is, adolescents may expect to receive some euphoric or rewarding effects as a result of their substance use (e.g., more positive affect). When this does not occur, their levels of positive affect are lower than in instances when they had not smoked prior. This may result in stronger implicit substance “wanting” as they continue to seek some concurrent positive reward following their substance use, thereby reinforcing use patterns. Of note, this thwarted reward effect was most pronounced among adolescent smokers who held stronger positive implicit attitudes about smoking, further highlighting the importance of understanding unconscious or implicit changes in cognitive networks in substance addiction.

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Why is it important?

Findings from this study add support to the incentive-sensitization theory as an approach to understanding tobacco addiction in adolescents. These findings have critical implications for improving long-term smoking cessation efforts within this population, suggesting that alterations of substance “wanting” (e.g., a key driver in both prolonged substance use and substance use relapse) may be made through the modification of implicit smoking attitudes.

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This page is a summary of: Support for incentive-sensitization theory in adolescent ad libitum smokers using ecological momentary assessment., Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, June 2023, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/pha0000669.
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