Talking Point: On the use of targeted cognitive training in the treatment of substance use disorders

This event was one of our Talking Point series. It was delivered on 17 May 2018.

Substance use disorders (SUDs) are typically treated with psychosocial treatments and/or medication. However, there is a third category of interventions to consider: varieties of Cognitive Training (CT). In this Talking Point Reinout W. Wiers, Professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Amsterdam, discusses ways forward to improve cognitive training for the treatment of SUDs.

Wiers reviews the state of affairs in both. Training of general abilities is hard, but does show promise for a subgroup of patients. In patients with alcohol use disorder, CBM has shown to increase one-year abstinence in several large clinical trials, with effect sizes similar to medication for alcohol.

It is also becoming clear for which individuals CBM shows most promise as an add-on treatment (those with a strong cue-reactivity and/or impulsivity), and we are beginning to understand the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying training effects.

In contrast to positive findings as add-on to regular treatment, online trials did not show differential effects, but main effects (general decline in drinking, irrespective of training). Wiers discusses ways forward to improve cognitive training for the treatment of SUDs.

Reinout W. Wiers, Ph.D., Professor of developmental psychopathology, University of Amsterdam

Professor Reinout W. Wiers is professor of developmental psychopathology and distinguished faculty professor at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). He is senior editor of the journal Addiction, and on the editorial board of several other journals of addiction and clinical psychology. Wiers is internationally known for his work on implicit cognition and addiction. He received the prestigious VIDI (2002) and VICI (2008) research grants from the Dutch National Science Foundation (N.W.O.), for research on assessing and changing implicit cognitive processes in addiction.

He also received several other grants from national and international funding agencies. His 2011 Psychological Science paper on changing the approach-bias for alcohol in alcohol-dependent papers with clinical effects is in the top 1% of most cited papers of that year in psychology and psychiatry. Wiers has published over 250 international papers and book chapters, and his current Hirsch-index is 45 (web of science) or 65 in Google Scholar.