The Sirens’ Song of Substance Use and the Trojan Horse for Recovery from Addiction
The positive emotions that individuals derive from substance use likely promote continued recreational use. However, key neurobiological changes account for the development and maintenance of substance use disorders. Because individuals with substance use disorders are hyporesponsive to non-drug-related rewards, chronic deficits in positive emotions may be an important component of a larger pattern of cyclic emotional dysregulation that maintains addiction. Consequently, the capacity of individuals to experience positive emotions could represent a source of resilience that sensitizes individuals to non-drug-related rewards and buffers against deleterious effects of negative emotions on relapse. Lending support to this hypothesis, the limited clinical research conducted to date indicates that elevated positive emotions may predict better substance abuse treatment outcomes. In order to inform future clinical research, this chapter concludes by delineating theory-based pathways that may account for the effects of positive emotions on recovery from substance use disorders.
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