How is Risk-Taking Related to Addiction?  

How is Risk-Taking Related to Addiction?  
July 27 09:40 2018 Print This Article

Most of us can relate to how it feels to want something very badly, but only one out of ten is willing to risk just about anything in order to get what they want. A University of Rochester Medical Center study showed that addicts are highly motivated to seek a reward.1 The majority of people can assess whether or not they have realistic goals. They adjust their expectations and may “downsize” and reduce risk.

The University of Rochester Medical Center study showed that people with addiction disorders don’t choose goals and judge risks and rewards in the same way as others. Addicts have goals and expectations that differ from non-addicts. To shed light on the way addicts react, the study broke down the risk and reward process down into three stages:

  • Anticipation:how much does the person want the reward?
  • Task monitoring:how realistically can the person judge whether or not they’ll get the reward?
  • Consummation:how strongly does the person feel they were rewarded if they achieve their goal?

Who Was Studied and How Did The Study Work?

The University of Rochester neuroscientists chose 23 cocaine users and 23 “control” subjects with no history of substance use.

The scientists tested the two groups using computer-based visual cues. Tasks measured how quickly the subjects could press a button after they were shown an “X” on the computer screen.

Before each “X” appeared, a color flashed on the screen that indicated their chances of “success.”

The real test wasn’t about how fast subjects pushed the button. It tested how they would react seeking a color that showed how successful they were likely to be.

All of the test subjects were hooked up to an EEG (electroencephalograph) machine that showed their brain activity during the test. The scientists also monitored brain activity when subjects received gift cards as a reward afterward. None of the subjects knew that they were going to receive the same gift cards no matter how “well” or “poorly” they performed on the simple visual computer tasks.

The 23 cocaine addicts who were studied had some reactions in common. They:

  • Wanted the promised reward more than non-addicts.
  • Were willing to take more risks to get the reward.
  • Enjoyed the reward less after they received it than non-addicts.

The study added information to other research that shows that risk-taking behavior has a strong connection to addiction. Studies dating from the early 2000s to the present have linked impulsive and novelty-seeking behavior among teens to substance abuse.2 If you’re seeking drug detox in Florida and want to improve your health, knowing how you choose rewards and take risks can help you in your recovery program.

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