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Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Research in Psychopathology

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177. Feasibility of Evaluating the Episodic Future Thinking Effect on Delay Discounting Behavior in Treatment-Seeking Cocaine Users

Episodic future thinking (i.e., envisioning oneself in future contexts) has been shown to reduce discounting of future reward in healthy adults (Peters and Büchel, 2010). While this approach also has potential to support future-oriented decision-making in substance use recovery, the impact of episodic future thinking on discounting behavior in illicit drug users has not yet been evaluated. This pilot study aims to (1) assess the feasibility of episodic future thinking methods in patients who use illicit drugs and (2) examine preliminary evidence of an “episodic future thinking effect” on discounting behavior in cocaine users. Eighteen treatment-seeking cocaine users were interviewed about positive and neutral events, expected to occur during the next year. Responses were subsequently used to develop a personalized delay discounting task, including personally-relevant future event cues on 50% of trials to promote episodic future thinking. We identified that patients were able to successfully generate future events but primarily described goals, rather than plans or other significant dates. The events generated were, however, still effective in curbing devaluation of future reward, relative to standard discounting contexts (p = 0.036). These preliminary results support future inquiry into episodic future thinking as an intervention targeting impulsive decision-making in illicit drug users.

Sarah Forster
VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System

Andrea Ortiz
VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System

Stuart Steinhauer
VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System

Steven Forman
VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System


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