Context and craving among individuals with alcohol use disorder attempting to moderate their drinking.

Alexis N. Kuerbis, Sijing Shao, Hayley Treloar Padovano, Anna Jadanova, Danusha Selva Kumar, Rachel Vitale, George Nitzburg, Nehal P. Vadhan, Jon Morgenstern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Many individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD) prefer a goal of moderation, because they do not see their drinking as causing severe enough consequences to merit abstinence. Given that individuals attempting to moderate will continue to put themselves in contexts where drinking occurs, understanding how distinct external alcohol cues prompt craving is important for implementing the optimal treatments for individuals with AUD. Using data from a randomized controlled trial of stepped care brief interventions for AUD, this study explored the relationship between drinking contexts and craving in individuals attempting to moderate their drinking using ecological momentary assessment (EMA). At baseline, participants were asked to prospectively identify drinking contexts that were particularly likely to elicit intense craving and heavy drinking, called highly valued drinking contexts (HVCs). During EMA, participants were asked to report three times a day (morning, afternoon, evening) on their non–mutually exclusive contexts and their level of craving. Using multilevel modeling, all drinking contexts were tested as concurrent predictors of craving across the 84 days of the study. Next, AUD severity was tested as a moderator of HVC on craving. Results demonstrated that being in an HVC corresponded to greater reports of any craving and intensity of craving, over and above the influences of several other contextual factors (e.g., negative affect and already drinking). AUD severity significantly moderated HVC's impact on any craving, such that greater AUD severity potentiated HVC's already high odds of any craving. Implications for treatments for individuals with AUD are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-687
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • alcohol craving
  • alcohol use disorder
  • drinking context
  • drinking cues


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