Craving is impermanent and it matters: Investigating craving and cannabis use among young adults with problematic use interested in reducing use

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2020 May 1;210:107957. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.107957. Epub 2020 Mar 14.


Rates of problematic cannabis use have nearly doubled over the last decade, and peak onset for cannabis use disorders occurs during young adulthood. Craving for cannabis is hypothesized to be an important factor that maintains cannabis use among people who desire to stop or reduce their use, including many young adults. Previous studies that used single timepoint assessment methods to demonstrate a link between craving and cannabis use have found mixed predictive utility of measurements. The impermanent, or time-varying nature of craving may be responsible for mixed findings, leading to inaccuracies in retrospective recall and greater difficulty measuring craving and detecting its association with cannabis use. The current study compared intensive longitudinal assessments and single timepoint assessments predicting cannabis use among young adults with problematic cannabis use who reported a desire to reduce their use. Participants (N = 80) completed a baseline craving questionnaire and intensive longitudinal assessments of momentary craving and cannabis use up to four times per day for 14 days. Results suggested that averaged momentary craving predicted cannabis use above-and-beyond craving measured at baseline. An increase of one SD above the sample-mean for averaged momentary craving increased the probability of cannabis use by 367 %, while a one SD increase in baseline craving was only associated with a 49 % increase. Findings suggest that asking young adults who want to cut back on their cannabis use about their craving at a single timepoint may not be as clinically useful as tracking cravings repeatedly in near real-time and in ecologically valid contexts.

Keywords: Addiction; Cannabis; Craving; Intensive longitudinal assessment; Measurement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cannabis
  • Craving / physiology*
  • Ecological Momentary Assessment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Abuse / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult