Applying extinction research and theory to cue-exposure addiction treatments


Stephen T. Tiffany Department of Psychological Sciences West Lafayette, IN 47907Ð1364 USA E-mail:


Aims To evaluate the efficacy of cue-exposure addiction treatment and review modern animal learning research to generate recommendations for substantially enhancing the effectiveness of this treatment.

Design Meta-analysis of cue-exposure addiction treatment outcome studies (N = 9), review of animal extinction research and theory, and evaluation of whether major principles from this literature are addressed adequately in cue-exposure treatments.

Findings The meta-analytical review showed that there is no consistent evidence for the efficacy of cue-exposure treatment as currently implemented. Moreover, procedures derived from the animal learning literature that should maximize the potential of extinction training are rarely used in cue-exposure treatments.

Conclusions Given what is known from animal extinction theory and research about extinguishing learned behavior, it is not surprising that cue-exposure treatments so often fail. This paper reviews current animal research regarding the most salient threats to the development and maintenance of extinction, and suggests several major procedures for increasing the efficacy of cue-exposure addiction treatment.