Moderate Drug Use and Delay Discounting: A Comparison of Heavy, Light, and Never Smokers

Matthew W. Johnson, Warren K. Bickel, Forest Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Scopus citations


Delay discounting was examined in light smokers (10 or fewer cigarettes per day) and compared with previously published delay discounting data for heavy and never smokers. Participants evaluated several hypothetical outcomes: money gains and loses ($10, $100, and $1,000), health gains and losses (durations of improved and impoverished health subjectively equivalent to $1,000), cigarette gains and losses (amounts subjectively equivalent to $1,000), and potentially real rewards ($10 and $100). Light smokers discounted money significantly more than never smokers, but light smokers did not differ from heavy smokers. The 3 groups did not statistically differ in discounting of health consequences. Similarly, the 2 smoking groups were not found to differ in discounting of cigarettes. Like heavy smokers, light smokers discounted cigarettes significantly more than money and health. Several significant, positive correlations were found between smoking rate and various discounting measures in the heavy smokers but not in the light smokers. Several previous findings were replicated, helping to validate the present results: the sign effect (greater discounting of gains than losses), the magnitude effect (greater discounting of smaller rewards), reliability of discounting measures over time, and the consistency of hypothetical and potentially real rewards. These data suggest that even moderate levels of drug use may be associated with high delay discounting levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-194
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental and clinical psychopharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • delay discounting
  • hypothetical rewards
  • light smokers
  • nicotine dependence
  • temporal discounting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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