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Summary

‘Craving’ is found in common usage as well as technical jargon. In ordinary use, the term refers to strong desire or intense longing. Recently the meaning of the technical term ‘craving’ has been stretched to include all dispositions of dependent persons to use the addictive substance. Some researchers have further extended the term to include dispositions to avoid the substance. We argue that the mismatch between the current technical use of ‘craving’ and its use in ordinary language is problematic and misleading in many cases. Examination of the literature on ‘craving’ reveals that the entity has been conceptualized in a variety of ways, each with implications for suitable research techniques. Whatever the model of ‘craving’, we urge scientists to be circumspect in their use of such a loaded term and to use it only for ‘strong desires’ to take drugs. To do otherwise can lead authors to make more of their findings than mould be supported by a more cautious use of words.