Few studies have examined the subjective value attributed to drug rewards specifically as it compares with the value attributed to primary non-drug rewards in addicted individuals. The objective of this study is to assess ‘liking’ and ‘wanting’ of expected ‘drug’ rewards as compared to ‘food’ and ‘sex’ while respondents report about three different situations (‘current’, and hypothetical ‘in general’, and ‘under drug influence’). In all, 20 cocaine-addicted individuals (mean abstinence = 2 days) and 20 healthy control subjects were administered the STRAP-R (Sensitivity To Reinforcement of Addictive and other Primary Rewards) questionnaire after receiving an oral dose of the dopamine agonist methylphenidate (20 mg) or placebo. The reinforcers’ relative value changed within the addicted sample when reporting about the ‘under drug influence’ situation (drug > food; otherwise, drug < food). This change was highest in the addicted individuals with the youngest age of cocaine use onset. Moreover, ‘drug’ ‘wanting’ exceeded ‘drug’ ‘liking’ in the addicted subjects when reporting about this situation during methylphenidate. Thus, cocaine-addicted individuals assign the highest subjective valence to ‘drug’ rewards but only when recalling cue-related situations. When recalling this situation, they also report higher ‘drug’ ‘wanting’ than hedonic ‘liking’, a motivational shift that was only significant during methylphenidate. Together, these valence shifts may underlie compulsive stimulant abuse upon pharmacological or behavioural cue exposure in addicted individuals. Additional studies are required to assess the reliability of the STRAP-R in larger samples and to examine its validity in measuring the subjective value attributed to experienced reinforcers or in predicting behaviour.
Keywords: cue reactivity, methylphenidate, motivation, primary rewards, reinforcement, relative valence, salience