Real-Time Electronic Diary Reports of Cue Exposure and Mood in the Hours Before Cocaine and Heroin Craving and Use | Addiction Medicine | JAMA Psychiatry | JAMA Network
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Original Article
January 2009

Real-Time Electronic Diary Reports of Cue Exposure and Mood in the Hours Before Cocaine and Heroin Craving and Use

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Treatment Section, Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics Research Branch (Drs Epstein and Preston, and Ms Willner-Reid), and Biomedical Informatics Section (Drs Vahabzadeh and Lin, and Mr Mezghanni), Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Baltimore, Maryland.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(1):88-94. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2008.509

Context  In ecological momentary assessment (EMA), participants electronically report their activities and moods in their daily environments in real time, enabling a truly prospective approach to the study of acute precipitants of behavioral events. Ecological momentary assessment has greatly enhanced the study of tobacco addiction, but its use has rarely been attempted in individuals with cocaine or heroin addiction.

Objective  To prospectively monitor the acute daily life precipitants of craving for and use of cocaine and heroin.

Design  Cohort study.

Participants  A volunteer sample of 114 cocaine- and heroin-abusing outpatients who were being treated with methadone provided EMA data on handheld electronic devices for 14 918 person-days (mean, 130.9; range, 6-189 days per participant). Of these outpatients, a total of 102 (63 men, 39 women) provided acute precraving and/or preuse data and were thus included in the present analyses.

Main Outcome Measures  Changes in reports of mood and exposure to 12 putative drug-use triggers at random intervals during the 5 hours preceding each self-reported episode of drug craving or use, analyzed via repeated-measures logistic regression (generalized linear mixed models).

Results  During the 5 hours preceding cocaine use or heroin craving, most of the 12 putative triggers showed linear increases. Cocaine use was most robustly associated with increases in participants reporting that they “saw [the] drug” (P < .001), were “tempted to use out of the blue” (P < .001), “wanted to see what would happen if I used” (P < .001), and were in a good mood (P < .001). Heroin craving was most robustly associated with increases in reports of feeling sad (P < .001) or angry (P = .01). Cocaine craving and heroin use showed few reliable associations with any of the putative triggers assessed.

Conclusions  These findings confirm that polydrug-abusing individuals can provide behavioral data in their daily environments using handheld electronic devices and that those data can reveal orderly patterns, including prospectively detectable harbingers of craving and use, which may differ across drugs.