Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.

Assessment of Cannabis’ Relative Value: Laboratory Evaluation of Reward Processing Among Those Who Use Cannabis

Elizabeth Aston (Brown University)

Invited Paper



Biography:Dr. Elizabeth Aston completed her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Wake Forest School of Medicine. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at the Brown University School of Public Health. She studies the behavioral economics of cannabis use, as well as predictors of cannabis-related outcomes (e.g., frequency, cannabis use disorder, problems) among individuals who use cannabis. She recently completed a K01 career development award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse using qualitative and quantitative methods to modify and validate a behavioral economic measure of demand for cannabis. She is also interested in cannabis’ medical applications, and is currently using qualitative and quantitative methods to study potential medical benefits of cannabis in the treatment of pain and inflammation for individuals with rheumatic diseases (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis).


Abstract: Behavioral economics, an interdisciplinary field that prioritizes the assessment of reinforcer valuation, provides a powerful approach to examine the relative value of cannabis. Demand, an integral component of a behavioral economic approach to studying cannabis use, characterizes the value of a given reinforcer and facilitates identification of excessive substance valuation. Demand may be obtained via systematic assessment of hypothetical consumption across escalating price on the Marijuana Purchase Task. This talk will present the utility of demand as a potential marker of cannabis risk severity, including use frequency, use of high-potency cannabis formulations, and engagement in hazardous behaviors such as driving following use. This presentation will focus on demand assessment paired with ad libitum cannabis administration in the laboratory, including simulated purchasing behavior, subjective intoxication, and smoking topography (i.e., the way in which one smokes). The talk will conclude with discussion of clinical applications for demand assessment, how behavioral economic approaches can inform policy surrounding cannabis, and how we can tailor demand assessment in the wake of ever-evolving cannabis formulations, modes of administration, and legislation.


Modifed by Eddie Soh