Elevated positive affect is associated with craving for substances of abuse, yet little is known about regulation of positive emotion in substance use disorders. This study tested if the emotion regulation strategy of dampening (deliberately down-regulating positive affect) contributes to substance use outcomes in a transdiagnostic sample.
Participants (N = 120) were adults endorsing risky substance use, recruited from an acute psychiatric treatment program that requires abstinence during treatment. Craving and dampening were assessed at admission.
A logistic regression to evaluate likelihood of substance use during treatment yielded a significant interaction between dampening and frequency of substance use in the previous month: odds of use during treatment were higher among those with heavier pre-treatment use, but only at high levels of dampening.
This study provides preliminary evidence that dampening increases risk for substance use among those with high levels of pre-treatment substance use. Findings are limited by the use of a general psychiatric sample, which did not include individuals seeking treatment for substance use disorders; future studies are needed to replicate this effect in individuals with substance use disorders. Results point to the need for interventions to enhance healthy regulation of positive affect in substance-using populations.