An addiction expert at a Virginia Tech University research institute will use past findings on individuals’ self-control to attempt to devise effective interventions to help smokers resist tobacco use.
The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute will receive $3.2 million in National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) financing over five years for efforts to bolster smokers’ resistance to nicotine cues. Warren Bickel, who in research has emphasized the concept of “future discounting” or the instinct to favor instant gratification over waiting for a later reward, will lead the project.
“We’re hoping to develop powerful new methods to help the brain overcome addiction,” Bickel said in an Aug. 29 news release. “We want to bring the power of science into people’s daily struggles to stop smoking.”
The research will compare smokers who discount the future the most with those who discount it the least. If it is shown that the former group is most susceptible to smoking-related cues during mild withdrawal, those individuals will be offered a number of behavioral exercises such as training in improving working memory.
“Our research has shown that people who relapse the most are those who discount the future the most,” said Bickel. “We speculate that smokers who can’t envision the future well are those stuck in their immediate circumstances. So a nicotine craving has an exaggerated effect on them.”
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