Measurement of alcohol craving
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Despite considerable research activity and application in treatment, the construct of craving remains poorly understood. We propose that cravings and urges are cognitive-emotional events in time, characterised by frequency, duration, intensity and salience. Commonly used measures of alcohol craving are reviewed, and their strengths and weaknesses identified. Most measures confound craving with behaviors, or with separable cognitive phenomena such as expectancies, intentions, or perceived behavioral control. These confounds have limited our advances in understanding the determinants and consequences of craving. Based on the criteria applied in this review, among the better performing multi-item measures are the Penn Alcohol Craving Scale and Obsessive subscale of the Obsessive-Compulsive Drinking Scale. Optimal assessment strategies are likely to involve daily assessments of peak intensity of cravings, desires or urges and of the frequency and duration of craving episodes. Of particular interest are measures of intensity at times when individuals are at risk of drinking or of other functional impacts from craving.
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