Craving for addictive drugs may predict relapse in abstinent addicts. To assess relationships between craving and use, we examined changes in craving for methamphetamine (MA) in a sample of 865 outpatients in a multisite 16-week MA-treatment study. Craving was assessed on a 0-100 scale, and MA use was assessed by self-report and confirmed by urinalysis. We hypothesized that the magnitude of craving would decline (decay) with increased time of abstinence, and that decay would be greater for more frequent MA users, and greater for intravenous (IV) users and smokers as compared to those who used MA intranasally. Craving declined significantly as the number of weeks of consecutive abstinence increased. Rate of decay was greater for IV users and smokers as compared to both intranasal users and oral users, but not for more frequent users of MA. Rate of decay was independent of age, gender, and race/ethnicity. The trajectory to 0 (no) craving was 1 week shorter for females than males because females had significantly lower pretreatment craving scores compared to males. This study confirms that the sooner MA-dependent people are able to quit using and the longer that they are able to stay abstinent, the more likely it is that their craving for MA will decrease over time.
© American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry.