Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. William Stoops


Numerous studies in behavioral economics have demonstrated that individuals are more sensitive to the prospect of a loss than a gain (i.e., loss aversion). Although loss aversion has been well described in healthy populations, little research exists in individuals with substance use disorders. The purpose of this study was to comprehensively evaluate loss aversion in cocaine users. Participants completed measures designed to assess loss aversion for drug and non-drug commodities under varying risk conditions. Cocaine demand was determined using a cocaine purchase task. Cocaine users showed a loss aversion score that was consistent across commodity and risk conditions. Compared to the normative loss aversion coefficient value (i.e., λ = 2) a large effect size decrease in loss aversion was observed in cocaine users. Hypothetical demand for cocaine was well explained by demand models. More intense and inelastic cocaine demand was also associated with greater loss aversion for cocaine. These data represent the first systematic study on loss aversion in cocaine using populations and indicate that reduced loss aversion is associated with cocaine use. Future studies should explore potential behavioral and neurobiological mechanisms to determine the benefit of loss aversion for treatment and intervention development efforts.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)