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Gottdiener, W.H. Murawski, P. Kucharski, L.T. (2008). Using the Delay Discounting Task to Test for Failures in Ego Control in Substance Abusers: A Meta-Analysis. Psychoanal. Psychol., 25(3):533-549.

(2008). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 25(3):533-549

Using the Delay Discounting Task to Test for Failures in Ego Control in Substance Abusers: A Meta-Analysis

William H. Gottdiener, Ph.D., Philip Murawski, M.A. and L. Thomas Kucharski, Ph.D.

A meta-analysis was conducted to test a core feature of the self-medication hypothesis of substance use disorders (SUDs) that posits that SUDs are associated with failures of ego control. This hypothesis was tested by quantitatively synthesizing studies that used the delay discounting task in individuals with SUDs compared with nonclinical controls. An additional aim of the study was to identify variables that might moderate the relationship between SUDs and delay discounting task performance. The results were based on 10 studies that consisted of 925 participants who used a variety of psychoactive substances, and all studies used matched-groups designs. Participants with SUDs showed significant failures in ego control compared with nonclinical controls (d = 0.587). Variance across studies was nil, and therefore no moderators were sought. The results of this study support the self-medication hypothesis and suggest that SUD treatment should focus on improving ego control. The results also show that the delay discounting task is an experimental method that can be used to operationalize a number of psychoanalytic constructs and thus opens the door to further psychoanalytic experimental research on failures of ego control.

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