Attentional bias toward drug-related cues is considered to be an indication of neurocognitive processes associated with drug dependence. While this phenomenon has been shown in other addictive substances, whether hypnotic medication would lead to similar processes remains an issue to be investigated. The present study examined attentional bias toward drug-related cues in long-term hypnotic users and the effect of negative affect on this process.
Thirteen long-term hypnotic users participated in this study. They spent 2 nights in the sleep laboratory: a mood-induction night and a neutral night. Attentional bias was measured through the recording of event-related potentials using a cue-reactivity paradigm; subjective craving for hypnotics was assessed using a single-item rating scale, and negative affect was measured using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule.
The results showed that the amplitudes of P300 and slow positive wave for hypnotic-related and sleep-related photographs were significantly higher than those for neutral photographs in both conditions. Negative mood induction did not significantly increase attentional bias.
The findings provide preliminary evidence that long-term hypnotic users do have attentional bias for hypnotic-related photos, suggesting the possibility of neurocognitive processes associated with drug dependence. However, the results did not show higher attentional bias under negative mood, suggesting that the use of hypnotics is not reinforced by the desire to eliminate negative affect. Because of the limited sample size and lack of a control group, the results should be considered as preliminary findings that call for future studies to further investigate this issue.