The idea that stressful life events can on occasions contribute to the development of addictive disorders is fairly well-accepted within both clinical and research communities. However, little support is available: research is sparse and investigators have generally neglected methodological refinements and innovations in the broader field of life-event research. Some of these developments are discussed, especially as they relate to the measurement of the meaning of life events. Findings from research based on such techniques are summarised, and their relevance for the study of addictions discussed under three headings: specification of life events, vulnerability, and diagnostic specificity.