The relationship between anhedonia and substance use in opiate-dependence: A longitudinal study

Joshua B.B. Garfield, Murat Yücel, Nicholas B. Allen, Sue Cotton, Dan I. Lubman

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Introduction and Aims: Opiate dependence is a chronic relapsing condition, with limited understanding of the mechanisms that underpin successful recovery. Subjective reports of anhedonia – defined as impaired capacity to experience pleasure – are common in substance-dependent samples and have been shown to predict increased drug cravings and relapse risk. However, such studies have been largely cross-sectional, and have not examined how anhedonia impacts on engagement in non-drug-related activities that are important for recovery. The present study employed a longitudinal design to examine how anhedonia impacts ongoing substance use and level of engagement in pleasant activities.

Design and Methods: Data presented here are from an ongoing National Health and Medical Research Council study, with data collection completed for 35 opiate-dependent, pharmacotherapy-maintained participants (9 females, 26 males; age at baseline: 25–50 years; 2–30 years since onset of regular opiate use). Self-report measures of anhedonia, engagement in pleasant activities, and
substance use were conducted at baseline and repeated monthly for 3 months. Regression models were used to test hypotheses.

Results: Increased subjective anhedonia significantly predicted both reduced engagement in pleasant activities and fewer days abstinent from non-prescribed intoxicating substances. No significant relationship between pleasant activity levels and substance use was evident.

Discussion and Conclusions: This is the first study to examine relationships between anhedonia and pleasant activity levels in a substance-dependent sample. Results are consistent with anhedonia influencing both substance use and engagement in other reinforcing activities. Anhedonia may therefore be a significant obstacle to recovery. Research into means of reducing anhedonia may improve interventions aimed at relapse prevention
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2012
EventAustralasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs Conference 2012 - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 18 Nov 201221 Nov 2012


ConferenceAustralasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs Conference 2012

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