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Vol. 76, No. 2, 2007
Issue release date: January 2007
Psychother Psychosom 2007;76:97–105

Cue Exposure Therapy for the Treatment of Opiate Addiction: Results of a Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial

Marissen M.A.E. · Franken I.H.A. · Blanken P. · van den Brink W. · Hendriks V.M.
aCentre for Personality Disorders PsyQ and bParnassia Addiction Research Centre, Parnassia Mental Health Institute, The Hague, cErasmus University Rotterdam, Institute of Psychology, Rotterdam, and dAmsterdam Institute of Addiction Research, Amsterdam and Academic Medical Centre University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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Background: Persistent cue reactivity to drug-related stimuli is a well-known phenomenon among abstinent drug users and has been found to be a predictor of relapse. Cue exposure therapy (CET) aims to reduce this cue reactivity by exposing abstinent drug users to conditioned drug-related stimuli while preventing their habitual response, i.e. drug use. Methods: 127 abstinent heroin-dependent Dutch inpatients were randomized to CET (n = 65; 55 completers) and placebo psychotherapy treatment (PPT) (n = 62; 59 completers). It was examined whether CET would lead to a decrease in drug-related cue reactivity (using mixed-design ANOVA) and subsequently to lower dropout and relapse rates (using logistic regression) compared to PPT. Results: Both groups responded with a similar decrease in self-reported cue reactivity (craving, mood). The CET group did show a significant decrease in physiological reactivity (skin conductance) compared to PPT. However, dropout and relapse rates were, contrary to our expectations, significantly higher in the CET group. Conclusions: This is the first randomized controlled trial showing that CET, compared to a non-specific psychotherapy, might increase dropout and relapse rates among abstinent heroin-dependent clients in a drug-free setting. Caution is warranted when applying CET in this specific context.

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Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in goverment regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug.
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