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National Institute on Drug Abuse -  NIDA NOTES
Nicotine Research
Volume 15, Number 5 (October, 2000)

Cues Trigger Craving

To evaluate the impact of the urge to smoke on craving for other drugs, Dr. Stephen Heishman and his colleagues asked participants to rate their desires for tobacco and other drugs after listening to recorded "scripts" of scenes involving pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral situations and containing "urge" or "no-urge" smoking cues. The scripts were originally developed by Dr. Stephen Tiffany and colleagues at Purdue University.

Pleasant, no-urge script: You're at the beach, lying on a blanket. The warm sun penetrates your skin and relaxes you thoroughly. A fresh breeze blows over your body as you run your hands through the clean white sand and let the grains fall through your fingers. You're feeling refreshed and at ease, and pleasant thoughts run through your mind. You can hear the sound of waves splashing rhythmically against the shore. Nearby there are some children playing a game. A bright red beach ball lands near your blanket. You look up and see two of the children running toward you to get their ball. You stand up, pick up the ball, and toss it to them. They laugh and giggle and run back to their game. You go to the blanket and lie down. You're enjoying this day completely.

Pleasant, urge script: You're at a friend's house sitting in a big comfortable chair. You're with people you've known a long time, and you're enjoying yourself very much. You're sipping a drink, and you're feeling totally at ease. Many of your friends are smoking cigarettes, just as you used to do. You've gone an entire week without smoking. As you sit there listening to the conversation and laughter, you begin to wonder what a cigarette would taste like. The more you think about smoking, the stronger your desire becomes. Maybe just tonight when you're with your friends and having a good time, it would be okay to smoke. How could you really enjoy yourself fully unless you were smoking? Your desire to smoke becomes intense, and you know that there's no good reason not to ask one of your friends for a cigarette.


Tiffany, S.T., and Drobes, D.J. Imagery and smoking urges: the manipulation of affective content. Addictive Behavior 15(6):531-539, 1990.

Tiffany, S.T., and Hakenwerth, D.M. The production of smoking urges through an imagery manipulation: psychophysiological and verbal manifestations. Addictive Behavior 16(6):389-400, 1991.

NIDA NOTES - Volume 15, Number 5

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