Differences between addicted and recreational users: Is it in the reward system after all?


1.Dr. Aristea Ladas (⚑ Greece) 1

1. CITY College, University of York Europe Campus


The available literature indicates that a modified reward system, as assessed by sensitivity to both reward and punishment, plays a significant role in the development of drug addiction. However, it's worth noting that this argument is primarily based on studies that compare drug-addicted individuals with those who have never used drugs . Unfortunately, such study designs do not provide insights into the distinctions between recreational drug users and those with addiction, nor do they shed light on whether we can anticipate the intensity of drug use based on assessments of the reward system. Consequently, we decided to investigate disparities in the reward system between recreational and addicted polydrug users.

Our study involved 213 participants, ranging from occasional recreational drug users to those with drug addiction. We utilized the BIS/BAS scale (Carver & White, 1994) to assess sensitivity to reward and punishment. According to the Mann-Whitney U test, individuals with drug addiction scored significantly higher than recreational users in all BAS subscales and the BIS subscale. This implies that variations in the reward system play a role in both recreational drug use and drug abuse.

Furthermore, a linear regression analysis revealed that the severity of drug use could be predicted based on the BAS Reward Responsiveness subscale score, specifically. In other words, individuals who are more sensitive to rewards are more susceptible to abusing drugs rather than using them recreationally. These findings have the potential to enhance our understanding of current approaches to drug addiction prevention and rehabilitation.

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