University of Wisconsin–Madison

Affective Negative Reinforcement in Addiction

Contemporary models of addiction have discounted the motivational relevance of the drug withdrawal syndrome in drug use and relapse. In part, this resulted from earlier focus of research and theory on the physical sequelae of drug withdrawal. In collaboration with colleagues in the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, we have reformulated negative reinforcement models of addiction to highlight that the affective but not physical symptoms of withdrawal provide the key motivational press for further drug use and/or relapse. The theoretical and empirical papers listed here combine with our more recent research (see Stress Neuroadaptations in Addiction) to implicate exaggerated negative affective response to unpredictable stressors when drug deprived as an important mediator of AOD use and stress-induced relapse. This body of evidence targets novel pharmacological and behavioral interventions to aid cessation attempts and reduce relapse.


  • Bradford DE, Curtin JJ, Piper ME (2015). Anticipation of smoking sufficiently dampens stress reactivity in nicotine deprived smokers. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 124(1):128-136. PDF
  • Baker TB, Japuntich SJ, Hogle JM, McCarthy DE, Curtin JJ (2006). Pharmacologic and behavioral withdrawal from addictive drugs. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15, 232-236. PDF
  • Piper ME, Curtin JJ  (2006) Tobacco withdrawal and negative affect: An analysis of initial emotional response intensity and voluntary emotion regulation. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 115, 96-102. PDF
  • Curtin JJ, McCarthy DE, Piper ME, Baker TB (2005). Implicit and explicit drug motivational processes: A model of boundary conditions. In R. Reinout and A. Stacy (Eds.), Handbook on Implicit Cognition and Addiction (pp 233-250). Sage Publications. PDF