Quantifying Reinforcement Value and Demand for Psychoactive Substances in Humans
Adrienne J. Heinz, Todd C. Lilje, Jon D. Kassel and Harriet de Wit
Affiliation: Center for Health Care Evaluation - Palo Alto VA, USA.
Keywords: Addiction, alcohol, behavioral economics, delay discounting, demand, drugs, impulsivity, nicotine, reinforcement
Behavioral economics is an emerging cross-disciplinary field that is providing an exciting new contextual
framework for researchers to study addictive processes. New initiatives to study addiction under a behavioral economic
rubric have yielded variable terminology and differing methods and theoretical approaches that are consistent with the
multidimensional nature of addiction. The present article is intended to provide an integrative overview of the behavioral
economic nomenclature and to describe relevant theoretical models, principles and concepts. Additionally, we present
measures derived from behavioral economic theories that quantify demand for substances and assess decision making
processes surrounding substance use. The sensitivity of these measures to different contextual elements (e.g., drug use
status, acute drug effects, deprivation) is also addressed. The review concludes with discussion of the validity of these
approaches and their potential for clinical application and highlights areas that warrant further research. Overall,
behavioral economics offers a compelling framework to help explicate complex addictive processes and it is likely to
provide a translational platform for clinical intervention.
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