Beating the urge: implications of research into substance-related desires.
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Despite the advent of improved pharmacological treatments to alleviate substance-related desires, psychological approaches will continue to be required. However, the current psychological treatment that most specifically focuses on desires and their management--cue exposure (CE)--has not lived up to its original promise. This paper argues that current psychological approaches to desire do not adequately incorporate our knowledge about the factors that trigger, maintain, and terminate episodes of desire. It asserts that the instigation and maintenance of desires involve both associative and elaborative processes. Understanding the processes triggering the initiation of intrusive thoughts may assist in preventing some episodes, but occasional intrusions will be inevitable. A demonstration of the ineffectiveness of thought suppression may discourage its use as a coping strategy for desire-related intrusions, and mindfulness meditation plus cognitive therapy may help in accepting their occurrence and letting them go. Competing tasks may be used to reduce elaboration of desires, and competing sensory images may have particular utility. The application of these procedures during episodes that are elicited in the clinic may allow the acquisition of more effective strategies to address desires in the natural environment.
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