Researchers believe that changing persons with alcohol use disorder (AUDtime)’s perspective may help them recover. Every year, an estimated $249 billion is spent on alcohol use disorder, which affects more than 15 million persons in the United States. For persons suffering from an alcohol use disorder, a “slow” technique may be the best way to go.
Virginia Tech researchers at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC propose that adjusting the time perspective of patients with alcohol use disorder (AUD) may help their recoveries in a study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, alcohol use disorder causes a $249 billion economic burden each year, with more than 15 million adults in the United States coping with it.
“By focusing on decision-making and adding the perspective of evolutionary biology, we’ve taken a fresh approach that is showing us ways to predict how an individual would experience recovery,” said Warren Bickel, professor of Virginia Tech Carilion Behavioral Health Research and director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute’s Addiction Recovery Research Center and Center for Health Behaviors Research.
Virginia Tech researchers looked at alcohol use disorder recovery in 110 persons who fulfilled the criteria for alcohol abuse and dependence in the International Quit and Recovery Registry, an online data gathering portal and forum created by Virginia Tech in 2011.
By focusing on decision-making and adding the perspective of evolutionary biology, we’ve taken a fresh approach that is showing us ways to predict how an individual would experience recovery.Professor Warren Bickel
People who utilized “slow life-history” tactics were more concerned with future rewards and personal development. They displayed pro-economic, pro-health, and pro-personal-development activities. They were more likely to be in recovery from alcoholism.
People who utilized “rapid life-history” tactics were more focused on immediate gratification and showed less care for personal health. Researchers believe that patients with alcohol use disorder who have a speedier life-history strategy may experience more difficulties throughout rehabilitation.
According to study first author Liqa Athamneh, a postdoctoral associate who began her research with Bickel while a student in Virginia Tech’s Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health graduate program, the length of the temporal window of integration — how far in the future people can imagine and integrate into their present choices — influences decision-making in either strategy.
The temporal window of integration was assessed using a delay-discounting task that required choosing between smaller sums of money in the short term and bigger sums in the long run.
Individuals in alcohol use disorder recovery who used “rapid life-history” techniques had a reduced temporal window and severe delay discounting. According to the current research, delay discounting may be used to anticipate an individual’s experience of recovery and remission, which is essential because recovery from alcoholism generally entails relapses. According to the researchers, knowing the association between life-history theories and remission could lead to the development of new treatments.
Along with the delay-discounting data, researchers statistically investigated correlations between participants’ history and current status for alcohol use disorder and health-related behaviors such as drug use, physical activity, saving and spending, and safe driving.
“In evolutionary biology, animals decide whether to devote their resources into personal development or biological imperatives, such as seeking food or reproduction,” said Bickel, the study’s principal author and a psychology professor in the Virginia Tech College of Science.
“People in volatile circumstances are more likely to prioritize short-term aims. They have a shorter life history, which includes brief partnerships, early reproduction, less self-care, and substance use. Persons with slower life histories may work on personal development, fitness, education, and health objectives in more supportive contexts, therefore people with slower life histories may work on personal development, fitness, education, and health goals.”
The following step in the research will be to track study participants throughout time. Scientists believe that people in recovery from alcoholism who have a shorter life history may benefit from therapies that broaden their future vision.
“While the nation’s attention has been drawn to the overdose crisis, alcohol use disorder has gone unnoticed as a huge, unsolved public health issue. In AUDs, slips, relapses, dropping out of treatment, pharmacological noncompliance, and failure to follow treatment plans are the norm, not the exception “Mark S. Gold, a professor in the department of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis and a former Distinguished Professor, Eminent Scholar, and chairman of the department of psychiatry at the University of Florida, who was not involved in the study.
“Substance use disorders have a chronic, relapsing course that is frequently connected with death once they are developed. Who recovers, who follows the treatment plan, and who takes relapse-prevention drugs, and why, are all unresolved questions. Measurement of delay discounting could be a prediction market, which is a solid prognostic marker predicting individual recovery and remission, according to a recent study by the ground-breaking Bickel group.”