Frustration May Factor Into Addiction

When researchers study drug addiction and what drives it, they often focus on a trio of factors: cravings, impulsivity, and habit. A new study suggests that a fourth factor — frustration — is a driving force in many substance use disorders.

The journal Psychopharmacology published the findings, featuring the work of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researchers.

For the study, rats were trained to push a lever that would deliver either a sucrose pellet or an intravenous dose of a synthetic opioid, fentanyl. When they didn’t get what they expected, the animals would press the lever more often, and for a longer amount of time. Researchers found the rats would grow more frustrated in their efforts to get more of the drug. 

The team believes people with a lower threshold for frustration may be more prone to resort to drug use, develop an addiction, and upon quitting, may have a higher likelihood of relapse. The findings may help uncover more answers about addiction, particularly with opioid use disorders.

Frustration tolerance has previously been suggested as a key factor in substance use disorders, where the patient may resort to self-medication (aka using drugs or drinking alcohol) to self-soothe. There are suggestions that helping a patient develop a higher level of frustration tolerance might be a useful tool in recovery. Reframing, distractions, relaxation, and gradual exposure are among several ways to improve tolerance and develop better coping mechanisms.

Sources

utmb.edu – Researchers at UTMB find that frustration is an additional factor of addiction based on studies with rats

frontiersin.org – Frustration Tolerance and Personality Traits in Patients With Substance Use Disorders

sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Coping Strategies & Addiction

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