Behavioral arousal in response to stress and drug cue in alcohol and cocaine addicted individuals versus healthy controls



Negative emotional arousal in response to stress and drug cues is known to play a role in the development and continuation of substance use disorders. However, studies have not examined behavioral indicators of such arousal.


The current study examined behavioral and bodily arousal in response to stress and drug cue in individuals with alcohol dependence and cocaine dependence as compared to healthy controls using a new scale.


Fifty-two alcohol dependent (AD group), 45 cocaine dependent (COC group), and 68 healthy controls (HC group) were exposed to individually developed stressful, drug-cue, and neutral-relaxing imagery. Behavioral and bodily responses were assessed with a new scale, the Behavioral Arousal Scale (BAS).


The BAS showed acceptable inter-rater reliability and internal consistency and correlated with subjective negative emotion and craving. BAS scores were higher in stress than neutral conditions for all three groups. COC participants showed higher BAS response to stress than AD or HC participants. COC and AD participants showed greater BAS response to drug cue than HC participants.


Behavioral arousal is a domain in which stress and drug related arousal is expressed and assessment of this domain could provide unique information about vulnerability to craving and relapse in addicted populations. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.