A preliminary examination of the multiple dimensions of opioid craving

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Background: Although craving is a formal DSM-5 criterion and a commonly reported feature of opioid use disorder (OUD), there is no universally accepted assessment of opioid craving for treatment outcome studies or clinical trials. This mixed-methods study characterized dimensions of opioid craving identified in qualitative responses collected via Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT). Method: Thirty-nine participants completed an online screener on AMT and met inclusion criteria (e.g., > = 18 years old and past 30-day illicit opioid use). These participants completed a series of closed- and open-ended questions about their opioid use and craving, including several commonly-used craving measures. They also rated their preference for how different questions described craving. Responses to the open-ended question “What do you mean when you say you are craving opioids?” were coded according to dimensions in existing opioid craving assessments and other common themes identified in the data. Results: Among the 39 participants, 8 different dimensions were identified and coded. Descriptions of craving were most frequently categorized as “Anticipation of Negative Reinforcement” (n = 17/39) and “Interfering Thoughts” (N = 14/39). Individuals with drug use characteristics reflecting greater severity of use were more likely to describe craving as “Interfering Thoughts”. Participants may prefer opioid craving questions that included Visual Analog Scale response formats relative to Likert scales. Conclusions: There is a wide range of dimensions that were used to describe opioid craving and no single unifying dimension was identified. These data suggest opioid craving is a multidimensional construct including dimensions currently not included in common craving assessments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108473
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021


  • Content validity
  • Craving
  • Mixed-methods
  • Online crowdsourcing
  • Opioids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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