Initial Evaluation of Domain-Specific Episodic Future Thinking on Delay Discounting and Cannabis Use


Episodic Future Thinking (EFT), mental simulation of personally relevant and positive future events, may modulate delay discounting (DD) in cannabis users. Whether EFT impacts cannabis use, whether DD mediates this effect, and whether EFT can be enhanced by prompting future events across specific life domains is unknown. Active, adult cannabis users (n = 90) recruited from Amazon mTurk and Qualtrics Panels were administered an Episodic Specificity Induction (ESI) to enhance quality of imagined events before being randomized to EFT, domain-specific-EFT (DS-EFT), or Episodic Recent Thinking (ERT). All participants created four, positive life events; DS-EFT participants imagined social, leisure, health, and financial events. Event-quality ratings were assessed (e.g., enjoyment). DD was assessed at baseline (Day 1), post-intervention (Days 2–4), and follow-up (Days 9–12). Cannabis use was assessed at baseline and follow-up. Differences in change in days and grams of cannabis use between conditions and mediation of changes in use by DD were examined. No differences in DD were observed between conditions. DS-EFT, but not EFT, showed significantly greater reductions in grams (d = .54) and days of cannabis use (d = .50) than ERT. DS-EFT and EFT demonstrated significantly greater event-quality ratings than ERT (ds > .55). EFT-based interventions showed potential for reducing cannabis use. Unexpectedly, effects on DD did not mediate this effect. Further testing with larger samples of cannabis users is needed to better understand EFT’s mechanisms of action and determine optimal implementation strategies.

Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology