People who drink coffee usually crave it first think in the morning. Similarly, individuals who enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail after a long day of work may have physiological cravings during peak happy hour times. And according to a new study conducted by Lydia A. Shrier of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Pediatrics and the Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine at Boston’s Children Hospital, young adults who crave marijuana also do so at specific times of the day. Persistent cravings are associated with high levels of relapse, regardless of the substance. People who crave sweets, alcohol, cocaine, or other substances tend to report that obsessions of cravings for their substance are what preceded their most recent relapse. Some reports suggest that the majority of individuals who receive treatment for drug addiction have cravings when they abstain. This is a primary symptom of withdrawal in drug and alcohol addiction and can lead to eventual relapse. To better understand what causes or increases cravings, Shrier gathered information from 41 young adult marijuana users over a period of 2 weeks.
The participants were cued six times a day, and they recorded where they were, who they were with, their level of desire to use, the availability of marijuana, and mood. Shrier discovered that even though the participants had all been selected because of their current drug use, just over half of them reported any desire or craving for marijuana during the study period. Of those who did, location, companionship, and time were critical triggers. For instance, the participants had more cravings when they were with friends than when they were with parents. Additionally, cravings were more common in the evening than in the morning. The participants in this study may have been engaging in more social activities in the evening and more academic or job-related activities in the morning. This would explain the increase in reported cravings during evening hours, a time that is often viewed as more social. Shrier said, “The association between times of day and increased desire suggests that intervention strategies recommending alternative activities be focused on vulnerable times.” She believes that marijuana use may decrease if individuals are able to reduce their desire for marijuana, especially in situations when cravings are strongest.
Shrier, L. A., Walls, C. E., Kendall, A. D. , Blood, E. A. (2012). The context of desire to use marijuana: Momentary assessment of young people who frequently use marijuana. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029197
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