Context and craving during stressful events in the daily lives of drug-dependent patients

Kenzie L. Preston, William J. Kowalczyk, Karran A. Phillips, Michelle L. Jobes, Massoud Vahabzadeh, Jia Ling Lin, Mustapha Mezghanni, David H. Epstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Rationale: Knowing how stress manifests in the lives of people with substance-use disorders could help inform mobile “just in time” treatment. Objectives: The purpose of this paper is to examine discrete episodes of stress, as distinct from the fluctuations in background stress assessed in most EMA studies. Methods: For up to 16 weeks, outpatients on opioid-agonist treatment carried smartphones on which they initiated an entry whenever they experienced a stressful event (SE) and when randomly prompted (RP) three times daily. Participants reported the severity of stress and craving and the context of the report (location, activities, companions). Decomposition of covariance was used to separate within-person from between-person effects; reffect sizes below are within-person. Results: Participants (158 of 182; 87%) made 1787 stress-event entries. Craving for opioids increased with stress severity (reffect = 0.50). Stress events tended to occur in social company (with acquaintances, 0.63, friends, 0.17, or on the phone, 0.41) rather than with family (spouse, −0.14; child, −0.18), and in places with more overall activity (bars, 0.32; outside, 0.28; walking, 0.28) and more likelihood of unexpected experiences (with strangers, 0.17). Being on the internet was slightly protective (−0.22). Our prior finding that being at the workplace protects against background stress in our participants was partly supported in these stressful-event data. Conclusions: The contexts of specific stressful events differ from those we have seen in prior studies of ongoing background stress. However, both are associated with drug craving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2631-2642
Number of pages12
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Cocaine
  • Craving
  • Ecological momentary assessment
  • Heroin
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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