Alcohol Demand, Delayed Reward Discounting, and Craving in Relation to Drinking and Alcohol Use Disorders


A behavioral economic approach to alcohol use disorders (AUDs) emphasizes both individual and environmental determinants of alcohol use. The current study examined individual differences in alcohol demand (i.e., motivation for alcohol under escalating conditions of price) and delayed reward discounting (i.e., preference for immediate small rewards compared to delayed larger rewards) in 61 heavy drinkers (62% with an AUD). In addition, based on theoretical accounts that emphasize the role of craving in reward valuation and preferences for immediate rewards, craving for alcohol was also examined in relation to these behavioral economic variables and the alcohol-related variables. Intensity of alcohol demand and delayed reward discounting were significantly associated with AUD symptoms, but not with quantitative measures of alcohol use, and were also moderately correlated with each other. Likewise, craving was significantly associated with AUD symptoms, but not with alcohol use, and was also significantly correlated with both intensity of demand and delayed reward discounting. These findings further emphasize the relevance of behavioral economic indices of motivation to AUDs and the potential importance of craving for alcohol in this relationship. © 2010 American Psychological Association.

Publication Title

Journal of Abnormal Psychology