Viewed from a behavioral perspective alcoholism is a behavioral disorder which should be influenced by the same range of environmental and historical variables which affect other operant behaviors. Therefore, environmental stimulus circumstances should play a significant role in influencing alcoholics' disposition to drink. In particular, stimuli which have previously been associated with drinking behavior should come to exert some controlling influence over subsequent disposition to drink. Relapse to substance abuse is often believed to be precipitated by exposure to stimulus circumstances previously associated with the drug or its use. This hypothesis has received its greatest emphasis in the area of narcotics abuse (Wikler, 1965). but presumably it is relevant also to the case of alcohol abuse. Research concerning abusers' reactions to alcohol-related or drinking-related stimuli has been minimal. Ludwig et al. (1974) have presented data suggesting that alcohol-related stimuli interact with priming doses of ethanol to increase alcoholics' disposition to drink. Miller et al. (1974), however, failed to observe a significant effect of drinking-related stimuli upon alcoholics' disposition to drink. In the field of behavior therapy, relaxation and stimulus-exposure techniques (e.g. systematic desensitization) are often recommended as techniques for reducing the effect of environmental stimuli upon an individual's behavior. However, data are lacking concerning the effect of relaxation training upon alcoholics. The present study uses psychophysiological procedures to investigate three issues concerning the effect of drinking-related stimuli and relaxation instructions upon alcoholics: (1) the effect of a single session of systematic relaxation instructions upon the electromyographic tension levels of abstinent alcoholics; (2) the effect of drinking-related auditory stimuli upon the electromyographic tension levels of abstinent alcoholics; and (3) the influence of prior relaxation instructions upon the EMG responses of abstinent alcoholics exposed to drinking-related stimuli.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health