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Does craving for cocaine mediate cocaine use? Analysis of a randomised controlled pilot trial of memory-focused cognitive therapy

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Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychopathology
Accepted/In press6 Jun 2019


King's Authors


Cocaine Use Disorder (CUD) is a debilitating psychopathology, with no recommended medication therapy or specific psychological intervention. Memory-focused cognitive therapy (MFCT) is a novel psychotherapy for CUD, theorised to modify and re-consolidate cocaine craving-related memories for cognitive and behavioural control. A pilot randomised controlled trial indicated that this therapy is associated with reduced craving and cocaine use. With an 80% confidence interval set for null hypothesis testing, we conducted an exploratory causal mediation analysis with confounder adjustment to determine if increased cocaine abstinence following MFCT is mediated by reduced craving experience and increased emotion regulation. Participant data on the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale did not meet screening evaluation as a potential mediator. Cocaine craving (assessed by the frequency version of the Craving Experience Questionnaire) was associated with a total treatment effect of MFCT on cocaine abstinence at follow-up (1.499; 80% CI 1.114 to 1.970; p = 0.012). A significant natural indirect effect indicated that reductions in cocaine use were strongly mediated by reduced frequency of craving experience (1.753; CI 80% 1.334 to 2.936; p < 0.0001). This study provides exploratory evidence in support of the theoretical action for MFCT and underscores the importance of craving as a therapeutic target.

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