Craving: Fancies, Fact and Folklore

  • David Peers


Craving is a concept which everyone vaguely thinks that they understand, and is usually thought of as an intense desire or longing. The use of the term in scientific studies is hardly more precise. The term is used to refer to different phenomena by different investigators. Opinions range from those who believe that craving is the dominant factor in drug addiction to the suggestion that it is a hypothetical construct, an ‘epiphenomenon’, which is more obscure than helpful — it is neither observable directly nor measurable. Despite such imprecision, the term has been widely used in a range of scientific investigations, particularly in studies of addiction, alcoholism and eating disorders. Such practice was criticised many years ago by the World Health Organisation.1 The use of the term is still widespread, presumably because everyone thinks that they know what it means. An attempt was made in 1991 to reach consensus at a meeting of experts from several disciplines, sponsored by the Addiction Research Centre of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse.2 The participants agreed that craving is a subjective state in humans that is associated with drug dependence but that little further could be certain. Unsurprisingly, it was suggested that, in order to advance knowledge, a substantial research programme is required.


Eating Disorder Bulimia Nervosa Addictive Behaviour Premenstrual Syndrome Food Craving 
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© Adrian Bonner and James Waterhouse 1996

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  • David Peers

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