Measures Of Craving

Craving is generally measured through three types of behaviors—self-reports of craving, drug-use behavior, and physiological responding. In the most frequently used measure, self-report, addicts are simply asked to rate or describe their level of craving for a drug. Recently, questionnaires have been developed that ask addicts to rate a variety of questions related to craving. These questionnaires produce results that are considerably more reliable than a single rating of craving and tend to show that an addict's description of craving may have multiple dimensions. Measures of drug-use behavior have also been used to assess drug craving. This is entirely consistent with the common assumption that craving is responsible for drug use in addicts. Finally, as several theories posit that craving should be represented by particular patterns of physiological changes, physiological measures, primarily those controlled by the autonomic nervous system, have been included in several studies as an index of craving. These measures have included changes in heart rate, sweat gland activity, and salivation. In general, withdrawal-based theories predict that the physiology of craving should look like the physiology of drug withdrawal. In contrast, models that emphasize positive reinforcement in the production of craving would associate drug desire with physiology characteristic of the excitatory effects of drugs.

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