Alexandra Elissavet Bakou is a third year PhD candidate in the University of Exeter, Psychology Department working under the supervision of Professor Lee Hogarth and Professor Kim Wright. Her research aims to explore brief interventions that may protect hazardous drinkers from alcohol relapses triggered by negative emotions such as stress. Alexandra has worked in the homeless sector before, managing a small shelter for homeless individuals suffering from a mental health condition. Alexandra holds an MSc. in Clinical Neurosciences from University College London and a BSc. in Psychology from Panteion University, Athens.
Brief negative affect focused functional imagery training abolishes stress induced alcohol choice in hazardous student drinkers
Aims: Stress motivates alcohol use and this effect is more pronounced in individuals who report drinking to cope. A separate line of work has shown that guided imagery about the future use of adaptive strategies improves alcohol outcomes. The current study tested whether training hazardous, student, negative affect drinkers to respond to personalised negative affect drinking triggers by imagining future adaptive strategies would abolish stress induced alcohol seeking behaviour in a laboratory model.
Methods: Participants were 61 hazardous, student drinkers who drink to cope with negative affect. Participants in the active intervention group (n=31) were briefly trained to respond to personalised negative drinking triggers by retrieving an adaptive strategy they might use in future to mitigate negative affect, whereas participants in the control group (n=30) received standard risk information about binge drinking at university. Alcohol seeking was then measured by preference to view alcohol versus food thumbnail pictures, under neutral baseline conditions and during noise stress.
Results: There was a significant two-way interaction (‘p'<.04) where alcohol choice was increased by noise stress relative to baseline in the control group (‘p'<.001) but not in the active group (‘p’=.33), and the active group showed reduced alcohol choice than the control group in the stress test (‘p’=.03), but not at baseline (‘p’=.16).
Conclusions: These findings provide evidence that brief training to respond to negative affect drinking triggers by retrieving future adaptive strategies can abolish stress induced alcohol-seeking in hazardous, student, negative affect drinkers supporting the clinical efficacy, and mechanism, of this intervention strategy.